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Can job sharing boost accountancy’s bottom line?

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 02 Aug 2021

NGOs and parliamentarians have urged the UK Government to take action to make job sharing a mainstream working practice. With the pandemic driving flexibility in the workplace, is job sharing a viable option for the accountancy industry?

An open letter published last month says that a reduction in National Insurance will incentivise employers to introduce job sharing roles by eliminating the associated cost that can be seen as prohibitive. Led by gender equality campaign group Empower, chaired by former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, the letter argues that job sharing promotes a healthy work life balance for employees and helps to close the gender pay gap that has widened due to the pandemic.

Mothers are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to have lost their jobs since the start of lockdown, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and a third of working mothers have reduced their hours due to a lack of childcare during this time, equality charity the Fawcett Society has found. 

Job sharing is a form of flexible-working where one role is split between two people, offering more opportunities for promotion than traditional part-time work. This is particularly beneficial for working parents or carers, with commitments that prevent them from undertaking full-time work. 

Jacqui Smith, Chair of Empower, said job sharing presented a solution to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. “Job sharing is the solution to many of the issues working mothers face, enabling a work life balance while retaining women in senior positions with equal access to career progression. The Government must now facilitate job sharing to become a mainstream working practice by introducing cost incentives, considering the needs of working parents in their post-COVID recovery plan.” 

The letter says that an increased uptake in job sharing would benefit working women, men, parents, carers and their employers. Post-COVID, the majority of workers will be seeking job flexibility with 70 percent of employees saying that flexible working makes a job more attractive to them. However current figures suggest that only 123,000 people are in job share roles in the UK, with recruiters saying that the concept remains rare across the accountancy sector.

Is job sharing a viable option for accountants?

Jo Howell, a specialist Finance and Accountancy recruiter for Cathedral Appointments, said despite being rare, job sharing was a more than viable option for the accountancy industry as more flexible and remote working patterns became increasingly the norm. “Over the past 15 months, people’s attitudes towards the workplace and how they desire to work moving forward has changed dramatically. Five days a week in the office is now a rarity, with some offices closing for good to make way for a fully remote culture. 

“Some employees no longer want to be run ragged by a five-day week either, they want to find a good work/life balance and have extra time to spend with family or undertaking hobbies. And because of this, we’re undoubtedly about to witness a big spike in the number of people choosing to work part-time,” Howell said. 

More importantly, being able to offer flexible working practices such as job shares will undoubtedly improve the business’s bottom line, Howell added. “Staff are more likely to be satisfied with their work and therefore stay for much longer. Teams will have longevity under their belt and customers will be serviced to a high-quality.” 

Recruiter Hays said job share arrangements tend to be more prevalent once employees within a company have shown their ‘worth’ to their existing employer and seek to condense their hours in line with a colleague. Sometimes the proven track record gives the employer comfort that the arrangement can work in a practical sense.

Lee Owen, Director at Hays Accountancy & Finance, urged accountancy employers to consider job-sharing as an option in a candidate short market to attract new talent but also retain employees who are looking for more flexibility. “It’s key to understand the behaviours associated with the role ensuring both employee and employer are aligned so that the two employees collaborate well together. Ensure there is a short handover period for both parties each week to discuss the ongoing challenges in the role.”

ICAEW Jobs allows highly skilled chartered accountants to find jobs in accountancy with top organisations. Visit ICAEW Jobs and upload your CV.

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