Civil service more receptive to flexible working, survey finds

Is a lack of access to mobile technology holding the public sector back?More managers feel able to work flexibly, compared to last year, an FDA survey finds, but workloads are still preventing one in four from taking up flexible working


By Suzannah.Brecknell

17 May 2017

More than one in six managers say they are able to work flexibly, according to a survey by the FDA union, a figure which has risen over the last year.

The union —  which is open to civil servants in grades HEO and above — surveyed members to find out about their working hours and workloads.


Nearly all respondents (95%) said their employer had policies in place to support a better work-life balance, such as compressed hours or term-time working. This is a slight increase from last year’s survey, when 93% of respondents said such policies were in pace.

The proportion who said they are unable to work flexibly has fallen, from 47% in 2016 to 39% in 2017.

In both years the most common reason civil servants felt unable to work flexibly was that flexible working would just mean taking on more work outside of contracted hours to keep on top of workloads.

More than nine in ten respondents said they already work more than their contracted hours, with 41% saying they work more than six hours overtime every week.

The next most common reasons why civil servants felt unable to work flexibly were that flexible working isn’t encouraged at their grade (19%) and that the nature of their post is not suitable for flexible working (15%). 

CSW analysis of ONS statistics shows meanwhile shows that part-time working is becoming more common among middle managers,  but has dropped slightly among the most senior civil servants.

While the overall proportion of part-time workers in the civil service stayed relatively stable from March 2015 to March 2016, there was a rise in those working part-time at Grades 6/7, HEO and SEO levels.

In these grades, the proportion of part-time workers grew by two percentage points over the year – to 16% among Grades 6/7, and 17% for HEO/SEO roles.

At SCS level, there a drop in part-time working over the same period, from 13% to 10% in 2016. 

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