Manchester Metropolitan University: Audit of Policy and Practice on Flexible Working
EW Group was commissioned by Manchester Metropolitan University to assess current working arrangements within the university. We also undertook a review of the informal flexible working arrangements within the University and made recommendations about how best flexible working might be formalised in the future, taking into account the preferences of staff and current best practice.
Having first researched best practice across sectors, including higher education, we drew up a questionnaire that helped staff and managers identify preferred flexible working options as well as organisational support that would be needed to make a new system effective.
The analysis of the questionnaires focused on three key areas:
Issues which were important to people at work (ranked 1-9, 1= most important);
Participants were asked how much control they felt they had over their working arrangements; and
Participants were asked to choose their three most preferred options for flexible working.
Following on from the questionnaire we facilitated one-to-one interviews and focus groups with a wide range of staff and managers.
The interviews and focus groups allowed participants to: Provide feedback on current access to flexible working opportunities;
Highlight any problems with current practice, including potential discrimination;
Provide feedback on new ways of flexible working which would benefit them and their colleagues; and
Provide feedback on procedures and support which would help them to implement flexible working in their areas.
Our survey report included recommendations relating to policy, procedures and practice. These formed the basis of an action plan developed by MMU which highlights the links between flexible working and discrimination in all areas of social identity – age, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion and disability.
We were clear in our findings that flexible working arrangements are of great benefit to any organisation, leading to more motivated, happier staff; a better retention rate, and to being seen as an ‘employer of choice’. More importantly, we recognised that although flexible working benefits all members of staff, there are clear equalities dimensions to flexible working, in that the impact of not being allowed to work flexibly impacts more on those from disadvantaged groups, who traditionally face discrimination in organisations. This includes black and minority ethnic staff, working class staff, lesbians and gay men, disabled staff, staff with particular religious beliefs, older and younger staff, and women.