75% of unemployed people in Scotland say flexible working would make it easier to get a job
Chelsea Birkett - Flexibility Works
December 5, 2022
December 5, 2022

We’re featured on the BBC today talking about how much flexible working means to people who are unemployed.

Our research shows three quarters of unemployed Scottish adults say flexible working, such as remote working or being able to adjust start and finish times, would make it easier for them to get a job.

We found:

  • 75% of people in Scotland not in work say having some control over where they work, such as some home working, would make it easier for them get a job.
  • The same portion say having some control over how much they work, such as part-time hours, would help.
  • 73% say having some control over when they work, such as being able to make small adjustments to start and finish times, input to rotas or working compressed hours would make it easier to find work.

Lack of flexible jobs

Yet, according to Timewise, just 27% of Scottish job adverts mention roles are open to flexible working, making it hard for the estimated 90,000 Scottish adults currently seeking work to find the kind of jobs they need.

When we asked about priorities when looking for a job, nearly nine in ten (86%) unemployed Scottish adults said flexibility was important, compared with 63% who said salary.

Health and caring needs

Health needs were the most common reason unemployed people wanted flexibility, with almost one in three (30%) stating this was their main reason for wanting flexible working. While almost one in five (19%) said caring responsibilities for children and/or older relatives was their main reason.

By comparison, the most common reason for wanting more flex among Scottish workers was for a better work life balance (36%). Just one in ten (10%) people in work in Scotland said their main reason for wanting more flexibility was to manage a health condition, and 15% said their main reason was caring responsibilities.

Want versus need for flexibility

Our co-founder and director, Nikki Slowey, said: “Many people want flexible working for a better work life balance and that’s extremely important. But there’s a difference between wanting and needing flexibility.

“Without flexible working, many brilliantly skilled and experienced people simply can’t work at all – this is particularly the case for parents, carers and people with a health condition.

“Couple this with the fact many people don’t know where to find flexible jobs, not helped by the fact that even companies open to flexible working don’t always think to promote this in their job adverts.

“At a time when many industries are struggling with skills shortages, it’s even more important for employers to think about the flexibility they could offer, and to make this clear in job adverts. We know lots of people who really need flex just won’t apply unless it’s obvious.

“Often people only need relatively small amounts of flexibility, such as some home working, slight amends to start and finish times, or to have an input to rotas so they can plan childcare.”

Chelsea’s story

Chelsea Birkett is qualified as a criminal law paralegal. But she’s currently out of work, and she’s been turned down for hundreds of roles in the last 16 months because she needs 100% home working to help her manage agoraphobia.

Chelsea has also completed a Making Work Work – for Women Returners programme. Funded by the Scottish Government, the course helps women who’ve had career breaks refresh their skills and build confidence, including around asking for flexible working.

Chelsea, 30, who lives in Aberdeen with her daughters aged eight and three, said: “I’ve applied for hundreds of roles but either I’m too qualified, not qualified enough, or employers want at least some presence in the office. Even when jobs are advertised as home working, I get told that I need to come into the office once or month, or for training. For me, that’s just not possible at the moment.

“I’ve tried explaining my situation to recruiters. I’m receiving help, and I’m slowly getting better. I can manage a short walk now. But I still struggle leaving the house.

“Even though I’ve always had excellent reviews for my work and I know I’m capable, I just get told time and again that unfortunately they’ll have to take me off their list.

“It’s so disheartening. And frustrating given that for so long things had to be 100% remote and companies still functioned fine.

“Ideally I’d work part-time hours around my girls. But I’d make a full-time role work if I could flex my hours and use my evenings when the girls are in bed.

“Having a job I could do from home would make a phenomenal difference financially to us as a family. It would help my mental health too, to have more purpose.”

Related blog posts

How hybrid working is getting cyclists back in the saddle

How hybrid working is getting cyclists back in the saddle

By Jenny Legg, Head of Communications at Flexibility Works We delivered free hybrid training to six Scottish employers in 2023, and we’re delighted with the positive feedback on how our sessions have helped teams work more effectively. But we’re also wheelie pleased...

read more
Scotland 4-Day Working Week

Scotland 4-Day Working Week

Phil McParlane, founder of jobs site 4dayweek.io guest blogs for us about the possibilities around a four-day work week. In recent years, the idea of a four-day work week has gained widespread appeal. For instance, in September 2023, the Scottish Government announced...

read more
Your hybrid questions answered

Your hybrid questions answered

It was great to see so many people at our hybrid working event this month. We shared some of our new research findings on what hybrid working really looks like in Scotland, and heard from two employers on their approaches to hybrid. If you were there, you’ll know we...

read more