Flexible Working Practices in Travel and Tourism

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1 Flexible Working Practices in Travel and Tourism Rhodri Thomas ITT RESEARCH REPORT SERIES REPORT 3

2 INTRODUCTION Flexible working practices have been the subject of growing attention over recent years. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), for example, produced an influential report in 2007 entitled Work and life: How business is striking the right balance 1. This was followed by a collaborative research project with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) which looked specifically at what smaller businesses were doing (and might do) in this respect 2. These reports, and others, were responses to exhortations from government that flexibility in the workplace was desirable and might become the focus of greater official attention 3. Flexibility in this context generally refers to arrangements that enable employees to alter their pattern of working arrangements. This will include part-time working or job share as well as a raft of other possibilities that will become clear from reading this report. As is often the case, travel and tourism has not featured particularly prominently in mainstream debates on flexible working. This report seeks to redress the current situation by presenting the findings of a sector specific survey about flexible working practices. It draws on the experience of eighty five randomly selected companies from a list compiled from variety of industry databases. The survey was undertaken during Those interested in more detailed analysis of the data than is available in this report are invited to contact ITT for the price of access to the data and any additional analysis that may be required. 1: The British Chambers of Commerce (2007) Work and life: How business is striking the right balance. London: BCC. 2: The British Chambers of Commerce and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2007) Flexible working: Good business. London: BCC/CIPD. 3: According to one estimate, there have been 21 legislative interventions that might be termed family friendly between See BCC (2007). 1

3 OVERVIEW OF CURRENT PRACTICE Forms of flexible working available The most common form of flexibility is provision for part-time working. 48 per cent of those surveyed claimed to offer this facility to all staff, with a further 38 per cent making it available to some staff. Flexitime and job share were the only other forms of flexibility offered to all staff in any significant numbers (37 per cent and 27 per cent respectively). The following were also recorded as being available to all staff: Career breaks/sabbatical (18 per cent), compressed hours (eg four day week) (14 per cent), working from home on a regular basis (12 per cent), annual hours (11 per cent), termtime working (11 per cent), mobile working (11 per cent), time off for work in the community (8 per cent) and secondment to another organisation (8 per cent) Table 1 below shows the figures for flexible arrangements that are made available to some staff. Table 1 Forms of flexible working available to some staff in the organisation (percentages) Part-time working 38 Flexitime 27 Job share 25 Career breaks/sabbatical 12 Compressed hours (eg four day week) 28 Working from home on a regular basis 45 Annual hours 15 Term-time working 21 Mobile working 19 Time off for work in the community 11 Secondment to another organisation 15 N=85 The arrangements discussed above will inevitably vary according to the core activities of the businesses and the occupations being considered. However, taken generally, these results are broadly comparable with those obtained by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development when they asked similar questions about a variety of sectors in : Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2005) Flexible working: Impact and implementation. An employer survey. London: CIPD 2

4 Take-up of available opportunities A quarter (26 per cent) of those surveyed stated that fewer than twenty per cent of their employees took up opportunities for flexible working. Only 28 per cent stated that more than fifty per cent of those eligible for flexible working took up the opportunity. These take-up figures might be accounted for by a lack of appreciation among employees of the opportunities on offer. In response to a question asking how employees were made aware of opportunities for flexible working, almost half of those surveyed stated that information was communicated during selection interviews (48 per cent), during induction (47 per cent) and via employee handbooks (44 per cent). Other methods included a section in the contract of employment (37 per cent), the Intranet (33 per cent), via training managers (33 per cent) and advertising (12 per cent). Perhaps predictably, almost forty per cent of respondents noted that women were more likely to take up opportunities for flexible working. However, a significant minority (26 per cent) suggested that the same number of men and women worked flexibly. Opportunities to work flexibly are more abundant for more junior staff. However, operational staff are more likely to opt for flexible working when it is available to them than managerial staff and administrative staff. However, the data do not suggest a simple relationship between seniority and take-up, though the sample is too small to draw definitive conclusions in this respect. In terms of trends, 44 per cent of those participating in the survey felt that the number of employees making use of flexible working arrangements had increased over the past three years. None stated that there had been a decrease. 3

5 FAMILY FRIENDLY PROVISION Almost 60 per cent of surveyed organisations offer some kind of family friendly provision with just over a half (53 per cent) having a formal written policy on this matter. The most common form of family friendly provision is paternity leave (59 per cent) followed by special arrangements for those with caring arrangements (41 per cent), and maternity leave above the statutory minimum (37 per cent). Almost a third of those surveyed (29 per cent) offered childcare provision but only 12 per cent offered eldercare provision. It will be interesting to observe the extent to which this changes as the population ages. 14 per cent of those surveyed did not offer any of the family friendly arrangements identified above. When questioned whether their organisation was considering introducing such flexible working, 13 per cent answered positively. This is higher than found by a comparable survey of other sectors conducted in In that case, the figure was approximately 4 per cent. The reasons for considering introducing greater flexibility in the travel and tourism sector varied but there was little sense of either a systematic approach to planning or particular pressures from the labour market. There was greater clarity from those not planning to introduce flexible working of this kind in the near future (29 per cent). Broadly, the reasons were either related to size of organisation or because there was little sense of a demand for such arrangements. 4

6 REASONS FOR INTRODUCING FLEXIBLE WORKING It is clear from Table 2 below that meeting employee needs and retaining staff are key reasons for introducing flexible working. The related issue of recruitment does not, however, appear to be as significant a reason. It is interesting that, as in other sectors, meeting legal requirements does not seem to be the driving force for change. Those keen to promote progressive employment practices in the sector will be encouraged by such a finding. If the CIPD (2005) research is considered to be a reasonable benchmark with which to compare travel and tourism industry attitudes and practice, there are some stark differences. More employers in other sectors feel that flexibility of working arrangements is critical for staff retention (86 per cent) than in travel and tourism and that meeting employee needs is a principal reason for offering flexibility (81 per cent), which again is significantly higher than travel and tourism. There are stark differences in attitudes to recruitment also with almost twice the proportion of employers in other sectors (66 per cent) considering flexibility to be advantageous to recruitment. Table 2 Reasons for introducing flexible working (percentages) To meet employee needs 62 To help retain staff 59 To support business needs 40 To meet customers needs 35 To help recruit staff 35 To comply with legislation 29 To maximise the use of company premises 15 To support employer brand 13 The main constraints to introducing more flexibility are as follows: Operational pressures (cited as important or very important by 58 per cent) Existing organisational culture (29 per cent) Customer and service requirements (28 per cent) The financial implications to the business (27 per cent) The attitude of line managers (25 per cent) 5

7 THE EFFECTS OF INTRODUCING FLEXIBLE WORKING The findings of this survey suggest that relatively few organisations (21 per cent) formally monitor the take-up of flexible working but a further 33 per cent claim to do so informally. Perhaps more surprising is that only one third of those surveyed (34 per cent) evaluate the effectiveness of providing flexible working. Most evaluations take the form of an analysis of employee attitudes (21 per cent) followed by information from staff appraisals (18 per cent), absence rates (17 per cent), the proportion of women returning after maternity leave (17 per cent) and labour turnover rates (14 per cent). Other means were used by a small number of managers. When invited to answer a question about the impact of introducing flexible working, the responses were overwhelmingly positive. As Table 3 shows, a raft of measures appear to have been improved significantly as a result of flexible working arrangements. Table 3 Positive and negative effects of introducing flexible working (percentages) Positive Negative effect effect Staff motivation 53 2 Staff retention 48 2 Productivity Customer service Recruitment Absence Team-working Knowledge sharing There are some interesting comparisons to be made with other sectors. According to CIPD (2007), 70 per cent of the employers responding to their survey felt that there was an increase in employee relations following the introduction of greater flexibility and that 60 per cent felt that productivity had improved. Although the scale of impact may be different, there appears to be a degree of consensus that flexibility improves a range of employee management related indicators across all sectors. 6

8 CONCLUSION The survey reported here was undertaken just before the recent crisis of the UK s financial system. It is hard to imagine that attitudes will not have changed as a result of this turbulence. Undoubtedly, managerial minds will currently be concentrating on finding new markets, managing liquidity and controlling costs. This is not surprising in the current climate. The findings of this report might be even more timely than planned. When the business environment is challenging, managerial talent and foresight is particularly valuable. It is reasonable to suggest that at times like this flexibility of working arrangements have an even greater role to play within organisations. If flexibility contributes to enhancing productivity, employee motivation and customer service, it may be another weapon in the business armoury that provides competitive advantage to some over others. 7

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