Commenting on the Spring Budget 2023 announced on 15 March, Clare Kelliher, Professor of Work and Organisation at Cranfield School of Management, said:

“The Chancellor’s ‘Budget for growth’ sets out promising legislation changes, but with unemployment at 3.7 per cent and with over a million vacancies, the Government must see that people don’t want the jobs that are on offer. It’s old-fashioned to think work divides neatly into units of thirty-seven-and-a-half hours per week.

“Businesses should promote the benefits of part-time and other forms of flexible working more effectively. Many see full-time/part-time in a binary way but offering greater flexibility could be vital to reducing the number of vacant positions in the UK.

“We’ve seen the success of the four-day week experiment. Its accomplishment was changing how people saw their relationship with time at work. More needs to be done to design jobs that fit contemporary lifestyles, and not just sticking with traditional working patterns.”

Winners and losers of part-time working

Professor Kelliher explains: “The winners will be the businesses that can adapt to the needs of the ‘economically inactive’. These fit into three broad groups: 

“Firstly, care givers. Currently, the weight of full-time childcare is crushing for families. Greater flexibility and better human resource planning could allow parents with young families to work part-time to help with the increased costs. The expansion of free childcare for one and two-year-olds in England will help young families to fill gaps in the labour market through flexible working.

“Secondly, people with long-term health conditions. Those that want to work and are able, should have opportunities to work in a reduced way. Where business patterns allow, employers can offer flexibility about how much work is to be delivered across a month or a year, giving the individual greater agency to manage their working time. 

“Finally, workers returning to the labour market. The cost-of-living crisis means that some are looking to supplement their income but are unwilling to return to their previous way of working. Offering flexible working opportunities is likely attractive to them, allowing employers to draw them back into employment. 

“The losers are businesses that do not re-engage with their human resource and identify the needs of their staff and customers. They risk missing out on people who are skilled and ready to work.”

Read Professor Kelliher’s latest report: Part-time working after the pandemic: The impact of the flexible furlough scheme.