Part-time work is key to boosting economic growth and jobs, says UK research

Destigmatizing and widening the availability of part-time work could support national employment, economic growth and worker engagement, according to new research published in the UK this week.

Using data derived from the country’s flexible leave program during the pandemic, under which organizations were able to bring back part-time employees with the government subsidizing their salaries, academics from Cranfield University’s School of Management found that if companies were to offer more part-time work, the wider economy might fare much better.

Around a fifth of people of working age in the UK are currently classified as economically inactive, according to the research. Many of them do not have a job because they have family responsibilities, a disability or another health problem or problem. But having access to part-time work could have a double benefit: it would allow these people to re-enter the paid work force to some degree, while also easing the shortages of employers that have ravaged many industries, particularly in the following Brexit. .

“Flexible leave was a unique experiment in part-time work and many employers and employees learned a lot from it by putting it into practice,” says Clare Kelliher, professor who authored the report summarizing the research. “It is essential that we do not lose this knowledge or this drive to innovate in the workplace – employers should now look to leverage what they have learned to attract and retain talent.”

“The world of work is going through unprecedented changes with the shift to hybrid working and events like the big resignation,” she added. “Part-time work offers employers and employees a way to successfully navigate disruption and thrive in the future.”

Britain’s economy shrank more dramatically than that of any of the major advanced Group of Seven countries in the third quarter of 2022 – the most recent data available – and 2023 is shaping up to be a year at best. dull growth.

This week, new estimates from two leading economic think tanks also revealed that Britain’s post-Brexit economy faces a shortage of more than 300,000 workers due to the free movement of labour. with the end of the EU.

“The government rightly wants to see the economy grow,” Kelliher said. “Exploring part-time work and encouraging its widespread use, where appropriate, could bring many millions of people currently excluded from work back into the labor market and stimulate the economy at a time when it is desperately needed.

Cranfield’s report also found that around 40% of those who had used the flexible leave scheme said line managers are now better able to manage part-time work effectively. And just over 40% of those who had used the flexible leave scheme said it had made their supervisors more open to part-time work.

It also showed that part-time work is always a gender issue. Many employers consider this to be something that women, and especially mothers of young children, are likely to ask for. Academics have established, however, that there is little evidence to support the hypothesis that the demand for part-time work is particularly low in the male-dominated workforce.

“Employees and employers can see that workplace practices and culture are changing rapidly as a result of the experience of the pandemic,” said Jo Swinson, a former UK business minister who is now a visiting professor at the ‘Cranfield University. “One-size-fits-all working models no longer make sense,” she said, adding that the supply of part-time work is one of the important ways employers attract and retain people. talented staff. “This insightful research should be read carefully by anyone interested in the future of work,” Swinson said, urging employers and the government to “act on its recommendations to reap the economic benefits that part-time work can bring”.

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