'I didn't want to be a weekend dad': CBI urges flexibility

man at computer holding baby Image copyright Thinkstock

"I didn't want to be a weekend dad," is how Julian Taylor, partner at law firm Simmons and Simmons, explains what drove him to ask for flexible working.

Since 2005, he has worked from home on Wednesday mornings and then taken the rest of the day off.

Simmons and Simmons offers flexible working to all staff and makes this clear in recruitment ads.

It is a stance employers' organisation the CBI wants other firms to emulate, arguing it will improve diversity.

In a report aimed at encouraging employers to hire a broader range of people from varied social backgrounds, age groups, races and gender the CBI suggests advertising flexible working at the outset.

Just one in ten job adverts mention flexible working, despite more than half of employers offering it, meaning they miss out on a wider pool of applicants, according to the report.

The CBI also suggests that firms remove candidates' names from job applications in a bid to reduce "unconscious bias" in hiring decisions.

The organisation argues that firms with a broader pool of staff will perform better.

CBI president Paul Drechsler says: "Inclusive workplaces give firms the chance to get ahead of their competitors by making better decisions, through diverse teams which draw on a wider range of ideas and experiences."

'A right rather than an exception'

Since 2014, Simmons & Simmons has allowed almost all its staff to work remotely one day a week of their choice without having to request permission from their boss.

It says the move was aimed at making "flexible working a right rather than an exception" and has seen a "significant increase" in the number of people who have taken up flexible working.

Image copyright Simmons & Simmons
Image caption Simmons & Simmons partner Julian Taylor says he didn't want to be "a weekend dad"

Mr Taylor says in 2005 when he asked to work flexibly it was "quite unusual", but said he was granted permission in just three weeks. Being at home one day a week has enabled him to spend more time with his three children now aged 14, 12 and 9.

"At the time [when I asked] I was a relatively new partner and also a relatively new dad and had two young children and was worried i was not seeing a huge amount of them during the week."

Now the children are older, he says he can pick them up from school as well as drop them off at activities. "I haven't done anything particularly dramatic with the time, but it's nice to be there day-to-day and talk about what's going on at school."

The change has also enabled Mr Taylor's partner to work later on a Wednesday, helping her progress at work, as well as make him feel loyal to the firm.

It is these sorts of factors that the CBI wants companies to be aware of. Mr Drechsler argues that flexible working should no longer be seen as "a bonus for staff", but instead as something that also has clear benefits for employers.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Setting voluntary targets to improve diversity and hold leaders responsible for plans to achieve them
  • In managers' performance appraisals, their record on developing staff should also be considered

The report said data from earlier this month showing the UK's productivity still lags well behind other major economies meant employing a broader range of people was now more crucial than ever, and would help create more engaged employees.

"The economic and social challenges that the UK faces have been thrown into sharp relief by Brexit, in particular around issues like productivity, inclusion and opportunity," Mr Drechsler says.

"As businesses, it is up to us to seize the opportunities that exist to make some positive changes, becoming firms that will be competitive into the middle of the 21st century. If we get it right, business growth and greater opportunity will go hand in hand."

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