Benefits of home working are 'skewed towards higher earners'

Benefits of flexible working are being ‘skewed’ towards higher earners while just half of workers on lower incomes work flexibly, research finds

  • Just half of employees earning under £20,000 have access to flexible working 
  • This compares to 80 per cent of those earning above £50,000, a survey found

The benefits of flexible working are being ‘skewed’ towards higher earners, new research has found.

Only half of those earning less than £20,000 have flexible working, compared with 80 per cent of those on a salary of more than £50,000 a year, the study found.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, many people retained flexible start and finish times or continued to work from home.

Nikki Slowey, director and co-founder of Flexibility Works, which carried out the research and supports companies to develop flexible working, said: ‘We’re concerned that while the pandemic has increased flexible working in Scotland overall, the benefits are skewed towards workers on higher incomes where good flexible working keeps getting better, while little changes for workers on the lowest incomes.’

Many companies have been operating a hybrid system since the lockdowns of the pandemic

Ms Slowey said a ‘lack of trust is likely to be part of the problem’, adding that some employers ‘still expect workers to “earn the right” to work flexibly’.


The research, conducted with the support of the Scottish Government and the Hunter Foundation, questioned more than 1,000 workers, 248 employers and 200 unemployed Scots who are looking for a job. 

It was found that salary was often the key difference when it comes to flexible working, with Ms Slowey adding: ‘Higher earners always have significantly more flexibility than lower earners.’

Fair Work Secretary Neil Gray said the research ‘underlines that more can be done to continue encouraging employers to unlock more vacancies to flexible work… and to support workers in lower-paid roles into better and more flexible work’.

Around half of civil servants are still working from home nearly two years after the end of Covid lockdown, figures revealed last month.

The number of workers going into an office is as low as a third, the government data for each civil service department from March 2023 shows. 

The department with the fewest staff in the workplace in March was Defra, which saw 29 per cent of workers attend the office in the week commencing March 13. 

The Home Office also scored among the lowest for staff working from the office last month. In the first week of March, 56 per cent worked from the HQ at Marsham Street, London, followed by 44 per cent the next week, 58 per cent the week after that and 54 per cent in the final week of the month. 

The Home Office saw around half of staff working from home last month. Jacob Rees-Mogg took this picture in the Cabinet Office to highlight the issue of WFH civil servants last year

In the first week of March, 56 per cent of Home Office staff worked from the Marsham Street HQ in London. Defra, which is also based there, saw just 29 per cent in the office in the week commencing March 13

Other departments which had some of the lowest turnouts at their headquarters for March included HMRC, the Foreign Office, and the Department for Education.

In the second week of March, HMRC recorded 39 per cent of staff in their HQ. 

By contrast the Ministry of Defence had 91 per cent of staff in the office during a couple of weeks last month – the highest turnout.

The Department of Health and Social Care also had among the highest percentage of staff in the office, with 79 per cent of workers at the HQ for half of March. 

A government spokesperson said: ‘There is agreement across government on there being clear benefits from face-to-face, collaborative working and departments remain committed to having staff working in offices at pre-pandemic levels.’ 

DEFRA said it has a broad range of employees who work across a variety of sites, from fieldworkers and vets, to laboratory workers and policy teams. 

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