IGN in action

Greater Manchester's Flexible Jobs Index

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Inclusive Growth Network

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Flexible working practices – both in terms of where employees work and when – are central to good jobs that improve staff wellbeing and productivity. The Covid-19 pandemic and the shift to home working has shone a spotlight on the benefits of flexible working, but access to flexible jobs is far from equal.

Too often people are turning away from work due to the inability of jobs to fit around their lives and caring responsibilities. This is contributing to a tight labour market, skills shortages and an untapped pool of workers. Building flexible working options into jobs from day one (including part-time, remote working or core hours) and expressing this openly on job adverts will mobilise the labour market, enabling people to access and hold onto jobs they couldn’t previously.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority reached out to the Inclusive Growth Network (IGN) to understand what flexible work looks like in the city region, helping to underpin and substantiate the Flexible Work characteristic of their Good Employment Charter.

The combined authority teamed up with Timewise, experts in flexible working, to produce an evidence base of the availability and accessibility of flexible work in the city region.

Key findings

By analysing over 175,000 online job adverts across two periods (January to April 2021 and April to September 2021), this work has unpicked where there are flexible jobs in Greater Manchester and in what sectors and roles.

  • Overall, 24% of online job adverts offered flexible working during lockdown in early 2021, rising to 27% by the end of September 2021. This lags behind demand with 9 in 10 people wanting flex in their work.
  • Access to flexible work is uneven across the city region with flexible working more common amongst higher paid roles (31% earning £80k+ compared to 24% UK average). There is lower than average levels of flexibility in lower earning roles (25% of £14k-19k roles compared to 28% UK average).
  • Flexible working is also more common in office-based roles and the city centre compared to outer boroughs (26% jobs in Manchester City Centre compared to 19% in Rochdale).

Key learnings

  • Facts help tell a story about what flexible work is and why it matters. This bespoke research helped substantiate and evidence Flexible Work, one of seven characteristics of good employment in the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter. The city region has made progress on flexible working but there is further to go, especially in foundational, frontline sectors of the economy and the outer boroughs.
  • Use evidence to drive change. It is one thing to understand a challenge, another to put the findings into practice. This work has acted as a call to action for employers to tap into a pool of workers that are not currently being offered the flexibility they want and need. The combined authority and Timewise facilitated a series of business workshops to help businesses see the opportunity and embed flexibility into jobs from day one.
  • Build an understanding of what good employment means. There are many elements of good work which mean different things for different places. This is a complex area. It can be helpful to start with the more tangible elements which have regularly updated datasets, for instance Real Living Wage. Then move onto some of the softer elements, like flexible work. This work has enabled Greater Manchester to get to grips with what flexible work means for them, put this into practice, and move on to understanding other elements of good employment, like sick pay.

This work has been delivered through fully funded IGN implementation advice – bespoke delivery support, tailored to member needs, which helps to unlock projects that deliver inclusive growth.