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Job moves on hold for Scottish parents over lack of flexible working employers urged to include flexibility in job adverts

Hundreds of thousands of working parents in Scotland say a job move is off the cards because they won’t be able to replicate the flexibility they have with their current employer, according to a new report.

The Modern Families Index 2020 in focus: Scotland report, published today (23/1/19) by Family Friendly Working Scotland, which is part of UK work life balance charity Working Families, shows 55 per cent of Scottish working parents don’t intend to change jobs for at least two years simply because they fear they won’t get the same flexibility elsewhere (1).

The charity, which previously released research showing just one in eight (11.9%) Scottish jobs with full-time-equivalent salaries of at least £20,000 were advertised as flexible, is now calling on employers to state flexible working opportunities more openly on their websites and in job adverts (2).

Nikki Slowey, co-director of Family Friendly Working Scotland, said: “People are far more likely to apply for and change jobs if they know flexible working is available. And businesses are more likely to find the quality and quantity of new-recruits they need as a result. A few extra words in a job advert could make all the difference.

“The business case for flexible working is well established and many progressive Scottish employers already embrace flexibility and reap the benefits. But many more are still on a journey towards making flexible working the norm. We often hear of companies that have created a really supportive policy around flexible working but no-one knows about it, whether they’re existing staff or potential candidates. We hope our new research reminds employers how important work life balance is to our modern workforce and that, for many employers, all they need to do is shout about ways of working they’ve already agreed.”

Zurich Insurance Group, which employs approximately 240 people in Scotland, started advertising all vacancies as a ‘part time, job share or full time working opportunity’ in April 2018. Women applicants for senior management roles increased by 45 per cent in the first three months.

Pauline White, who works in Zurich’s Glasgow office and is vice chair of the company’s internal Women’s Innovation Network, said: “We added nine words to all job adverts and were delighted with the result. The insurance industry has traditionally not been very flexible and that has put women off. We’d previously introduced much more flexibility for employees and this was working well for them and for us a business. We were looking at how else we could remove barriers particularly – but not only – for women and decided to flag our flexible credentials in job adverts and we’ve not looked back since.”

Repeated studies including by Manchester Business School and the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development show offering flexibility increases staff motivation, productivity and loyalty while reducing time off sick. (3)

The new report by Family Friendly Working Scotland includes data from more than 500 working parents in Scotland. It shows 53 per cent of Scottish working parents currently work flexibly. Almost half (47%) said this was to accommodate childcare, while 39 per cent said it was for wellbeing management and 27 per cent said it was to pursue hobbies and interests.

Sixty per cent of Scottish working parents who worked flexibly said they felt happier as a result and 58 per cent said they were more motivated at work.

The research also showed that creating the right work life balance is often more important than salary or professional success for working parents. More than a quarter (26%) said they would take a pay cut to work fewer hours, while more than a third (34%) said they wanted to downshift roles for less stress.

The research comes soon after the UK government set out plans to improve support for working families in December’s Queen’s Speech. This includes making flexible working the default way to work unless employers have a good reason not to. (4).


Journalists requiring more information including case study interviews can contact Jenny Legg on 07725 619304 or email

Notes to editors:

The Modern Families Index 2020 in focus: Scotland report surveyed 507 working parents in Scotland. It is a supplement to a wider UK report, the Modern Families Index, which includes data from more than 3,000 working parents across the UK. The UK report has been published annually by work life balance organisation Working Families since 2012.

The UK Modern Families Index is the most comprehensive study of how working parents manage the balance between work and family life in the UK. The full report can be found here:

The Flexible Jobs Index Scotland report was conducted and authored by Timewise, and commissioned by the Scottish Government working in partnership with Family Friendly Working Scotland.

The research was based on the analysis of over 230,000 job adverts in Scotland, in the period from September to December 2016. Further analysis on part time earnings, employment patterns and levels of underemployment were conducted using the Household version of the Annual Population Survey July 15-June 16, and using the current Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

ACAS and the University of Manchester Business School - Flexibility in the Workplace: Implications of flexible work arrangements for individuals, teams and organisations. Published 2017

Queen’s Speech reference (pages 43-45)

Family Friendly Working Scotland aims to create and support working culture change in Scotland that builds economic success and improves the lives of families. It is part of Working Families, the UK’s work-life balance organisation.

Family Friendly Working Scotland works with employers, government, families and others to promote a flexible and family friendly working culture. This is a way of working which delivers business success and enables employees to have a good balance between work and home life.

Spanning boundaries between private, public and third sectors, we offer practical support to employers and share best practice. We also raise awareness of the issues and benefits around flexible and family friendly working. Acting as a nucleus, Family Friendly Working Scotland promotes innovative and sustainable ways of working that are good for families and the Scottish economy.

Visit or @ffworkscot on Twitter.

Working Families is the UK’s work-life balance organisation. We help working parents and carers—and their employers—find a better balance between responsibilities at home and in the workplace.

We provide free legal advice to parents and carers on their rights at work. We give employers the tools they need to support their employees while creating a flexible, high-performing workforce. And we advocate on behalf of the UK’s 13 million working parents, influencing policy through campaigns informed by ground-breaking research.

Visit @workingfamuk on Twitter and Instagram

Our YouGov Survey Results are clear - Flexible Working WORKS

Last month we conducted research via YouGov which uncovered some fascinating statistics from Scottish Business Leaders: Almost nine in ten (87%) leaders surveyed who offer flexible working say it has had a positive impact on their business. More than 250 Scottish senior business decision makers demonstrate clear business benefits from offering flexibility - putting paid to the myth that flexible working is only a ‘favour’ to help employees in special circumstances.

Half (50%) of business leaders said offering flexible working has had a ‘very positive’ impact on the business overall and 38 per cent said it had a ‘fairly positive’ impact. Only two per cent felt it had any negative effect. Senior Scottish business leaders surveyed who offer flexibility to employees said it had led to the following business benefits:

- Increased productivity among employees - 37%
- Reduced business costs, such as office space or recruitment and training - 26%
- Increased profit – 17%
- Better staff retention – 40%
- Better recruitment of key talent – 24%
- Better employee mental health and wellbeing – 40%
- Reduced staff sickness absence – 30%
- Increased equality and diversity among employees – 27%
- Better employee engagement – 45%
- Improved work life balance across the business - 55%

More than two thirds (68%) of Scottish business leaders surveyed reported good working practices around flexible working, with 43 per cent saying their business had a very flexible working culture and that flexible working was accepted as the norm. While a quarter (25%) said they had some really good practices in place for flexible working and many people had the opportunity to work flexibly. As a minimum, organisations are legally required to consider requests for flexible working from employees who have been employed at least 26 weeks.

Our Co-Director Nikki Slowey, co-director said: “Flexible working is good for business. The fact we’re hearing this from business leaders themselves proves flexibility is not a favour to employees in special circumstances, it genuinely makes good business sense.

“There’s still a huge unmet demand for flexible working and the desire for flexibility is universal across gender, age, and whether or not someone is a parent. We hope employers and workers are encouraged by these figures and use National Work Life Week to explore how they can incorporate more flexibility to improve work life balance and boost the business.”

Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills Jamie Hepburn said: “The Scottish Government is working with employers to encourage flexible, agile and inclusive workplaces that benefit all employees.

“As this research shows, offering flexible working practices benefits businesses as it enhances staff retention and recruitment and can help attract an under-utilised pool of talent into our labour market. It also helps tackle the gender pay gap and ultimately benefits our economy and society as a whole.”

Barclays, a significant employer in Scotland, encourages employees to work flexibly through its dynamic working programme. Scott Stewart, Head of Barclays Scotland, said: “Our dynamic working strategy gives us more motivated, talented and diverse employees who provide a better service to our clients. We attract and retain key talent because they like how we work. Our staff surveys also show that colleagues who work dynamically score an average 12 percentage points higher across a range of engagement, satisfaction and productivity metrics, so it really does make a difference.”

Pursuit Marketing, which has headquarters in Glasgow and employs 180 people, introduced a four-day week on full pay in 2016. Director Lorraine Gray, said: “Our productivity - based on clearly defined monthly KPIs - increased by 37 per cent at first and has now settled at 30 per cent, even after three years. “We don’t spend any money on recruitment now. We’ve taken on around 90 people in the last three years and it used to cost around £4,000 in agency fees to recruit a basic telemarketer, so we’ve saved a considerable sum just from recruitment.

“We’re growing rapidly and being honest, practical and flexible with our staff is what’s driving our success.”

Almost of third (31%) of Scottish senior business decision makers surveyed predict an increase in the proportion of employees working flexibly in five years’ time. This includes nearly one in ten (9%) who believe there will be a large increase. The most common forms of flexible working that Scottish senior business decision makers said were available to employees were:

  • Working from home - 53%
  • Time away for personal appointments - 48%
  • Informal or ad-hoc adjustments such as leaving early and working from home – 41%
  • Part time hours – 39%
  • Flexitime - allowing employees to work a set number of hours but with a choice over the start and finish times – 38%

September 'new start' helping you gain a better work life balance

By Nikki Slowey, Co-Director at Family Friendly Working Scotland

September has a universal ‘new start’ feel about it. A new term is already underway for millions of school pupils. But this time of year can inspire new beginnings for parents too when it comes to making changes at work, home or the way we balance the two.

For many parents, the start of a new school year marks a significant change in family routines. Perhaps your child has started school for the first time, or has reached an age or year group where you feel comfortable returning to work or increasing your work.

Or perhaps you’ve been running yourself into the ground trying to juggle work and home life – even more so in school holidays - and you want to cut back, or make your work flex more healthily around your home and family life.

If you’re thinking about your work life balance and want to ensure - or increase - your flexibility, our team at Family Friendly Working Scotland has put together the following facts and top tips to help you find the right balance.

The truth about flexible working:

Flexible working is no longer a ‘favour’ solely for women returning from maternity leave. Millions of Scottish men and women of all ages and backgrounds already work flexibly for a variety of reasons. The latest figures show more than half (55%) of Scottish workers now work flexibly. Of the 43 per cent who don’t currently work flexibly, more than half (56%) would like to (1).

Flexible working comes in all shapes and sizes. It includes part-time hours. But it can also be job-shares, compressed hours, flexitime – amending start and finish times, remote and home working, term-time-only working and annualised hours to name only the most common. It’s about finding a way of working that enables you to be your best at work and at home.

Businesses benefit too because flexibility is proven to increase motivation, productivity and commitment. A UK Government task force aims to increase flexible working opportunities and their uptake for this very reason, and the group includes the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). Employers who still think flexible working is a burden are just plain wrong.

Six steps to flexibility:

Work out what you need

Flexible working comes in so many forms including some you may not have heard of, such as term-time-only working where employees don’t work in school holidays. We found more than one in ten (12%) Scottish adults said this kind of flexibility would be valuable – so you are not alone if you think this could work for you (2). Similarly, working ‘annualised hours’ means you are contracted for a certain number of hours a year but you and your manager agree when you will carry them out. Be clear in your own mind about what you need to be effective and enjoy our time at work and at home. Know what is a deal-breaker.

Highlight the business benefits

Flexible working has to work for your employer too, so make sure you can show how changing your working pattern will also help your organisation. Perhaps changing your hours will give your employer better coverage across the day or week. A job share brings two perspectives instead of one. Working from home saves travel time and could open up more ‘work’ time. While annualised or term-time hours could allow your employer to concentrate resources when they are most needed.

Your legal rights

Employers have a legal duty to consider a flexible working request from anyone in post for at least 26 weeks. This means there’s no legal duty to consider flexible working requests during recruitment, though progressive organisations that understand the business benefits of flexible working are increasingly agreeing flexible arrangements at the point of hire.

Start a conversation

It can feel awkward asking for changes, especially if your colleagues all seem to work ‘standard’ full-time hours. But if you don’t ask, it’s unlikely you’ll get what you need. You don’t need to be aggressive laying down demands and threatening to leave if they’re not met. Think of it as simply starting a conversation and exploring the options.

Flexible job hunting

If you’re not having any luck with your current employer, or you are returning to work after a career break, keep any eye out for our ‘happy to talk flexible working’ logo and strapline on job adverts. Try job boards and agencies that specialise in flexible working - has a good list in its support centre section. Use mainstream job boards too and search for flexible or part-time roles.

Do your own research

Don’t rely on flexibility being touted in an advert. Unfortunately, only one in eight quality jobs in Scotland is advertised as flexible. But more than half of Scots say they currently work flexibly, proving there could be much more scope for a flexible role. Use websites such as Glassdoor to get a better idea of a company’s culture. Check out our Top Employers award winners and the Working Families Benchmark list of companies that encourage flexible working for inspiration too.


  1. Figures are from YouGov. Total sample size was 1,011 adults of which 519 were workers. Fieldwork was undertaken online between September 4 and 7, 2018. The figures are weighted and representative of all Scottish adults aged 18 and over.

2. Figure from YouGov. Total sample size was 1,021 adults of which 493 were workers. Fieldwork was undertaken online between September 5 and 7, 2017. The figures are weighted and representative of all Scottish adults aged 18 and over.

A new guide for business to help them support mothers return to work

We were delighted to see this lovely user friendly guide for employers to help them better support women on the maternity journey. It makes so much business sense to support mothers make a smooth transition back to work following the birth of their baby. Take a look

My maternity leave adventures: remember the little things

At Family Friendly Working Scotland, we often talk to employers about how little things can make a big difference to people’s lives: small adjustments to working patterns, having open conversations, leaving work a little early here, starting later there. All these things can help people have a better balance between work and home life which has a ripple effect to improved mental health, stronger family relationships and a happier, more productive workforce.

In this section.