By Nikki Slowey,

Programme Director (Job Share) at Family Friendly Working Scotland

PICTURE a Scotland where people with accolades, awards and successful projects under their belts were excluded from the jobs market overnight due to one arbitrary factor. It sounds ridiculous, but this is how much of our job market operates with regards to flexible working.

I recently spoke to Diana, a highly-qualified marketing professional who had experienced this very thing.

“I was headhunted, I was offered the job but when I said I needed some flexibility on working hours the conversation stopped dead…”

Diana is skilled, experienced and ready to work hard. She was looking for some flexibility to be with her young child. But that was the deal breaker. The job offer vanished. There was no conversation, no flexibility. It was simply a case of; “No, it can’t be done. Goodbye.”

What a waste of talent. But she’s certainly not alone. Many workers don’t even get this far. They don’t apply for jobs because they know they need flexibility and doubt it will be available. Just one in eight jobs in Scotland is advertised as offering flexible working. Yet demand for it is growing.

Aside from pay, more than half (53 per cent) of Scottish workers say flexible working is important when looking for a new job. Of those described as jobless and looking for work, more than a third report looking for part-time or flexible work.

This disparity creates a bottle-neck where Scottish workers, and would-be-workers, can’t find the job or career progression they want along with the flexibility they need.

It means Scottish businesses miss out on the best talent. As a society we are not ensuring that individuals are able to secure work to match their skills level. Ultimately, it is our economy which takes the hit.

At Family Friendly Working Scotland, we work with employers and the Scottish Government to support flexible working.

I was recently talking to the founder of a medium-sized IT company. He is more interested in the skills and experiences people can bring to his organisation, ahead of the hours and pattern they can work.

He knows good people are critical to business success and therefore they recruit well and hold onto their people. Fundamentally, it is about creating a great working culture. To him it makes perfect business sense.

A flexible approach pays dividends; the business has a more loyal, committed workforce, better attrition rates and low absenteeism. Evidence shows that flexibility increases employee commitment, engagement, motivation and productivity.

This increasing demand for flexibility is widespread and no longer is the discussion confined to mothers. We hear about younger workers who place huge value on work life balance; older workers

looking to phase their retirement by working fewer hours; parents and carers needing flexibility and individuals who want to pursue personal interests and passions.

Our Happy to Talk Flexible Working campaign encourages companies to use flexibility as a tool to recruit great talent and use our logo and slogan as part of the recruitment process to show that they are open to flexibility. Organisations already using this in Scotland have reported that they are attracting more and better applicants.

To drive inclusive growth in Scotland’s economy we need to ensure that people can fully participate in the jobs market. To achieve this, we need to embrace more flexible ways of working. Flexible working needs to become a central part of Scotland’s economic growth conversation. As we stand on the brink of an uncertain future, never has it been so pressing to utilise all of our collective talent.