More flexible hours for working women could save the UK £700m a year

IPPR: 'Flexible working in its current, reduced-hours form, simply isn’t flexible enough'

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Indy Politics

About £700m of taxpayers’ money would be saved if highly qualified women were allowed to work more flexibly, according to a report published today.

The IPPR think tank said employers miss out on talented women because two thirds (64 per cent) of women cannot vary their start and finishing times and a quarter (25 per cent) find it difficult to take one or two hours off work at short notice to deal with personal matters.

Its study found that many women on a 'mummy track' do part-time jobs below their skill level. An expansion of part-time work would not prevent employers failing to recruit the most talented staff.

According to the IPPR, only half as many women in the UK can adapt their working hours (19 per cent) than in Sweden (41 per cent) and the Netherlands (38 per cent). One in four women working part-time wants to work fewer hours, while 13 per cent want to work more. The study found that a five percentage point rise in the proportion of mothers in full-time work could save the Treasury £700m a year in lower benefit payments and higher tax revenue.

Dalia Ben-Galim, IPPR’s associate director, said: "Flexible working in its current, reduced-hours form, simply isn’t flexible enough. The prevalence of rigid scheduling, especially in low-income jobs, often means that even reduced hours work is not sufficient for meeting the more spontaneous demands of care-giving."

She added: "An important indicator for flexibility is how employees’ hours are set, and who has control over this. For example, fixed starting times set by an employer may conflict with the varying and changing needs of families."