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Why the Making Flexible Work Charter matters, and what I hope it achieves

Blog by Emma Stewart, Development Director, Timewise 

Emma Stewart

In March this year, I was invited by the ABI to take part in a Talent and Diversity Network webinar about the benefits of flexible working. As a director of a social business which has been championing flexible working in all its guises for over 15 years, I think it’s great to see the ABI launching their Making Flexible Work Campaign and Charter.

The ABI’s work in this area has come at a critical time. Even before the pandemic, there were equality issues within the insurance sector; the ABI’s 2018 report, Tackling the gender seniority gap, revealed that only a quarter of board members were women and recently published data shows that progress has been too slow. With a range of evidence suggesting that women have been hardest hit by the economic fallout of Covid-19, there’s a real need to act now to avoid turning back the clock on workplace equality. 

And let’s not forget that it is not only women who want, or need, flexible working. Many people have responded to the crisis by re-evaluating their priorities and seeking to work less; just last month, research by the government’s Behavioural Insights Team revealed that 9 in 10 employees wanted increased flexibility. This is in stark contrast to the fact that only 2 in 10 jobs are advertised with flexibility of any kind, as the most recent Timewise Flexible Jobs Index revealed. 

It’s in employers’ interests to offer flexible working 

There is every indication, then, that flexible working is here to stay, with many organisations now contemplating a hybrid model. But it’s important to remember that it isn’t just an employee benefit; there’s a strong business case for offering it, too.  

Flexible working can make it easier to recruit talented people; a field trial carried out by Zurich UK found that job adverts which used gender neutral language, and openly mentioned flexibility, attracted 20% more women (as well as more men). It also helps organisations retain and progress women and boosts their employer brand. It supports employee engagement and well-being, which in turn helps with motivation. And there is an increasing bank of evidence to suggest that it can have a positive impact on productivity

Additionally, and specific to the sector, the ABI has found that increasing access to job share arrangements, which would support many of the points raised above, would be the single most effective way to reduce the gender seniority gap. 87% of those who work part-time in the insurance and long-term savings sector are women, and job sharing is proven to help those who want to work part-time continue progressing in their careers. The sector, like many others, has also seen a pandemic-fuelled acceleration in the pace of change, as more organisations look to revamp and prioritise their flexible working strategies. 

The Making Flexible Work Charter offers three clear steps for the insurance and long-term savings sector 

For insurance sector members who see the potential of flexible working, and want to be part of the current movement for change, the Making Flexible Work Charter offers a straightforward pathway. 

The three commitments that signatories are being asked to give – make it clear, make it possible and make it happen – have the potential to transform the sector into one which has honest flexible working policies, advertises flexible roles, and supports and promotes flexible ways of working. And this can only have a positive impact on its ability to attract the brightest and best people. 

So if you haven’t already done so, I would certainly encourage you to sign up to the charter, and play your part in making the insurance and long-term savings sector future fit. 

Emma Stewart is Development Director at TimeWise and if you would like to find out more then please visit: www.timewise.co.uk.

Last updated 28/04/2021