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Opinion: Flexibility and Inclusivity in Recruitment for the NHS | Alice Montgomery-Reed

The Head of Future NHS and Co-Chair of the Women's Network, Alice Montgomery-Reed addresses the need for equity of access to the flexible working opportunities available.


Flexibility and inclusivity in recruitment has made significant headway over the past two to three years within NHS England, especially with the latest offering from the NHS People Plan, with the NHS committing to offering more and different types of flexible working regardless of role, grade or circumstance. There are, however, more changes and improvements that can be made to how we attract, recruit, and retain people at all levels.


"Inclusion and diversity are also directly impacted by the availability and accessibility of flexible working."

The most recent NHS staff survey results from 2021 show us that only 53.9% of those working at a national level are satisfied with their flexible working opportunities, with only 44.4% having commitment from their organisation to help them balance their home and work life. This demonstrates that we still can and should be doing more in this area to help our NHS people have equity of access to the flexible working opportunities available.


Inclusion and diversity are also directly impacted by the availability and accessibility of flexible working. Research by Timewise, a flexible working consultancy, shows that for 77% of women and 91% of carers, the ability to work flexibly is critical, and is a deciding factor when searching for and applying for jobs. And without more of these flexible roles out there, these groups of people can find themselves stuck earning less, unable to progress in their careers or even without the ability to work at all. This is important because, by enabling greater participation from these types of groups, the NHS can also help to meet much more of its equality and diversity targets and have a workforce that is far more reflective of the society that it serves.


"I can only imagine how much more diversity and talent we will encourage by not stating that roles must be based in a particular location."

I like to think of myself as being very fortunate to have such a flexible role, working within a very flexible team in NHS England. Flexibility with regards to how, when and where I work is vital to enable me to deliver at my best, whilst also enabling me to manage the commitments in my personal life. I am a mother to a two-year-old, have a full-time job and take balancing my career and personal life very seriously. I do not want either to be at the sacrifice of the other, and it is important for me to understand the flexibility that is on offer when looking for new opportunities.


"I want to see a faster change in how we advertise our jobs, where flexible working options become the standard default."

I personally recognise that changes in how we advertise our vacancies and even the language we use in our job descriptions can make a huge impact upon the diversity of applications. Simple yet effective changes such as removing the mandatory requirement to state a specific location and office base when advertising for NHS roles, will enable suitable vacancies to truly be advertised with flexibility and inclusivity at their heart. I can only imagine how much more diversity and talent we will encourage by not stating that roles must be based in a particular location.

Within my team, we support a variety of different flexible working options, focussing on supporting people to work in the best way they can. We aim to advertise our roles highlighting the flexibility available with regards to location and working pattern, however when faced with having to use the mandatory options available on our systems, we inevitably end up with a homogenous group of applicants. I want to see a faster change in how we advertise our jobs, where flexible working options become the standard default. From flexibility in location and working hours, to more options such as job-sharing, especially at more senior grades. This will enable and open up jobs to a far wider talent pool, which will have a direct benefit upon the NHS workforce, its delivery and management.


 

Genevieve Shaw, Founder and Editor-in-chief

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