While progress to date has been good, there are still many challenges ahead. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is one of practicality; while there are many reliable flexible working schemes in place for back-office staff, there are still many issues that must be resolved to extend the option - in whatever form - to those working on-site.
It might seem obvious, but there are very few examples of how flexible working has been brought to site-based occupations, so the task ahead is to look at developing a framework that can be established from the ground up.
Any initiative will also require the support of both the client and main contractor to be successfully implemented. This may well require BuildUK involvement and their ability to facilitate what will be required from clients and main contractors. In fact, BuildUK is already working with Timewise so there is a similar mindset and desire to develop a flexible working initiative so collaborating could be of benefit.
FPS members are still open to the idea, as the sector has to evolve to attract and retain people. The existing workforce across the entire construction sector is ageing, so bringing in new talent is vital. According to FPS data currently, 99.99 per cent of site workers are male, so if the sector is ever going to meet the growing shortage of skilled workers it will have to look beyond its traditional recruiting profile and talent pools and that means adapting working practices to make the sector more attractive. Flexible working is just one part of the working practices, but is it is an important aspect as it will attract and retain a young and diverse workforce.
Of course, some of the sector's problems are endemic too; there is a definite industry bias towards workers who are motivated by working long hours for more pay. Though this is changing, due in part to the existing pool of people diminishing, to be replaced by young adults, less inclined to work in poor conditions on site, the issue is still present.
The business case for working flexibly is very strong and with government already indicting that employees will have the right to request working flexibly from day one, initiatives such as this are important.
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