Does Flexibility in Work Risk Causing “Two Tier” Workforces?

flexible working

There has been an urge for businesses to “think creatively” for how they can provide flexibility in work. This news follows research that highlights the unequal availability of flexible work in the UK.

“Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home”.


CIPD warns that the UK is splitting into two tiers of working. This is because some regions of the country are already recognisable as flexible “notspots”.

The HR body of the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey data shows some areas to have better access to flexible working than others. In addition, the survey found the South East to have the best access as well as the East and Northern Ireland.

This survey found Yorkshire, the Humber, the East Midlands and Wales to have the least access to flexibility in work.

How Does CIPD Measure Flexibility in Work?

CIPD measures flexibility by looking at where employees can work as well as the operation of informal flexible policies. Additionally, CIPD would also take into account the flexibility of start and end times and the ability to take leave on short notice.

To allow flexibility within a workforce, one must be aware of the different types of remote and hybrid working models available. Read out article to find out more.

Less Flexibility in Lower Skilled Roles?

Data from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force shows that places with lower skilled roles have less flexible working. For example, Yorkshire and Humber have less flexible working but a higher proportion of lower skilled and lower paid jobs. This is because higher skilled jobs often do not require a physical working location.

Chief executive of CIPD, Peter Cheese, has urged employers to “think creatively” in how flexible working can be offered to those required to be in a physical workplace.

“Having a wide range of flexible options is necessary to support the whole workforce and we want to see an increase in the uptake of all forms of flexible working, regardless of the type of work someone does or the region they’re in”.

Peter Cheese (CIPD)

Cheese mentions that flexi-time, compressed hours and job shares could help people to have greater control over their working life. He would also add that these movements towards flexible working may help create more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

More Inclusive for Women?

One aspect of flexible working that is of utmost importance for some women, is the ability to work remotely after having children. Dr Anne Sammon from Pinsent Masons weighs in on the importance of this for both men and women:

“Genuinely flexible work enables women, in particular, to remain in the workplace after having children,” Sammon said, adding that the normalisation of flexible working that happened during lockdown could also have a “positive impact on the ability of men to more equally share those care-giving responsibilities”

Dr Anne Sammon

For more information regarding flexible working or for further HR support, contact us.