About the research

Using data from the ONS Labour Force Survey, we’ve ranked UK nations and regions from most to least flexible in terms of working arrangements. The analysis found that workers in South East England have the best flexible working options, while workers in Yorkshire and Humber are least likely to have flexibility in their role. The unequal uptake of different flexible working arrangements across the UK – with some areas being described as ‘flexible working notspots’ – runs the risk of creating a two-tier workforce.

Flexible working uptake by region:

Download a PDF of the map:

Flexible working ‘notspots’ across the UK

We've analysed ONS Labour Force Survey data to rank the UK's flexible working uptake. With some areas like Yorkshire and Humber being flexible working 'notspots', we run the risk of creating a two-tier workforce. See where your region stands:

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Regional ranking table:

Overall rank Region Rank – flexibility over when Rank – flexibility over where Rank – informal flexibility
1 South East England 7 2 6
2 East of England 6 3 2
3 Northern Ireland 4 5 1
4 London 11 1 9
5 Scotland 8 4 7
6 North East England 1 12 4
7 North West England 5 7 8
8 South West England 3 8 10
9 West Midlands 10 6 5
10 Wales 2 11 11
11 East Midlands 9 10 3
12 Yorkshire and Humber 12 9 12

About the league table

To compile the league table we looked at three types of flexible working:

  • Flexibility over when someone works: Flexible hours – including flexi-time, annualised hours, term-time working, job shares, four-and-a-half-day weeks, and zero-hours contracts.

  • Flexibility over where someone works: In other words, if someone is able to work from home.

  • Informal flexibility: How start and end times are determined, the ability to take a couple of hours off during the working day to deal with personal matters or to take leave at short notice, and the frequency of unforeseen work demands or availability for work in one’s free time.

Regional differences explained

The regional differences in these types of working arrangements tend to reflect the nature of work and the predominance of particular sectors in different parts of the country. Professional, scientific and technical jobs, alongside administrative work, have historically seen more flexible working than manufacturing or operational-type jobs. There’s also a greater prevalence of higher skill/higher pay jobs in London and the South East – roles which tend to offer more autonomy and better bargaining power over conditions, including working from home. Lower-skilled roles (which are harder to do from home) exist in areas such as Yorkshire and Humber, where workers appear to have very little flexibility at all.

Generally, the analysis found that in regions where employees report better flexibility in hours, they tend to have less flexibility over where they work. For example, the North East comes out top for flexible hours, but bottom for flexibility of location. Regions with greater flexibility in terms of where employees work have the opposite problem, with less use of flexible hours and informal flexibility. For example, Londoners have the best flexibility around where they work, but many don’t have flexibility in their hours or informal flexibility with their employer.

The right to request flexible working from day one

Our recent research looking at flexible working arrangements and the impact of COVID-19 found that the use of flexible hours – such as part-time or flexi-time – has dropped over the last year, while working from home has increased. If this downward trend in flexible hours continues, many workers may miss out on the benefits of having more flexible options available to them. Employers should therefore ensure that everyone has access to a variety of flexible working arrangements and work to find solutions that best suit individual preferences alongside business needs.

To address this and to boost the number of people using a variety of flexible working arrangements, we’re calling on organisations and the government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right for all employees through our #FlexFrom1st campaign.

For more information on the CIPD’s Flex From 1st campaign visit www.cipd.co.uk/FlexFrom1st.

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