UK gov flip-flops on remote work, wants it a standard for all jobs

Job applications thought to attract 30% more interest when remote and flexible work is offered

Minister for women and equalities Liz Truss

The UK's minister for women and equalities, Liz Truss, has called for employers to make flexible working a standard option to help level the digital divide.

The comments, which come ahead of International Women's Day, appear at odds with a recent government position around the so called 'new normal' and whether that should include remote and hybrid working policies.

Truss argues that flexible, remote, and even job sharing should be a typical option for most employees across the UK, the belief being that it could boost employment in rural areas and "turbocharge" opportunities for women who are said to be twice as likely to opt for flexible work.

"Our commitment to flexible working is based on our desire to open up employment opportunities to people regardless of their sex or location," Truss said. "The shift for many people to work from home during the pandemic has changed mindsets and now is a chance to seize the opportunity of making flexible working the norm, rather than something employees have to specially request."

Truss' comments come just a week after Boris Johnson suggested that remote working would not be the new normal, claiming that people will have a strong desire to get back to in-person meetings and office life.

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The same sentiments were made at the end of the first lockdown, with calls for people to get back to the workplace and support shops and restaurants that need footfall traffic. Government ministers have also previously shunned some forms of remote work, ending a policy that could allow them to vote from home over the summer.

Recent data from Cardiff and Southampton universities revealed that most workers want some form of flexible or remote work to continue after lockdown, with a remote work option seen as one of the most desirable criteria when applying for a job.

The Behavioural Insights Team and recruitment site Indeed found that explicitly offering flexible working would increase job applications by up to 30%. The results, based on an analysis of almost 20 million applications, suggest that greater transparency in job ads could create at least 174,000 flexible jobs per year.

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