Leading by example to improve the local flexible working labour market - Camden Council and Timewise

With high rates of maternal worklessness in their borough, Camden Council knew it was a priority to increase the supply of quality part time and flexible jobs and that they as a major local employer should lead the way. This case study forms part of the wellbeing and inclusion resource.

View allWorkforce articles

Camden Council have been working with Timewise since 2014 and became their first Timewise Accredited Council.

The data on Camden’s workforce reviewed at the start of their project to become a Timewise Council showed that while 16 per cent of the council’s staff worked part-time, these were concentrated in lower salary grades and in certain services. There were inconsistencies in how requests for flexible working were handled and challenges in how to keep staff connected when they weren’t in the office. In some areas there was an expectation that roles above a certain grade were not open to flexible or part time working, which impacted on the career aspirations of part time workers - especially women - and reinforced a negative perception of flexible working in some areas.

Shifting attitudes towards flexible working

With a desire to be a Timewise Council as a Cabinet priority, Camden developed an action plan to look at a number of key areas internally, as well as looking at their wider role in the community:

Flexible hiring: Camden made a resolution to explicitly consider flexible working options for all positions on job adverts and since this time 100 per cent of requests made at recruitment stage have been met. This has led to Camden attracting a more diverse range of applications for external vacancies. The standard of applications is considered to be higher, including submissions from candidates who would not have applied without the explicit reference to flexibility.

Flexible working: Camden have delivered a broad programme of support and training to managers incorporating issues like:

  • the psychology of remote working
  • job design
  • flexible recruitment
  • managing a flexible workforce.

They have also used internal case studies, such as an assistant chief executive job share arrangement, to act as role models. This has resulted in a bigger uptake of senior part time, job share and job split arrangements. This has enabled them to retain key talent and build efficiencies across several divisions.

Creating change in the community

As well as making significant improvements to flexible working within the council, Camden has trialled a number of innovative ways to open up more roles to flexible and part time working in the local area:

Improving access to flexible jobs: They have launched a website connecting Camden parents to flexible opportunities, mentoring and advice.  Council jobs which are advertised on a part-time, flexible basis are advertised through the site, and other local employers can place adverts too. 

Directly supporting parent jobseekers: Camden have made sustained investment in two projects which raise the profile of maternal unemployment. Together, these projects have supported nearly 400 residents with 137 moving into employment or training. 

Trialling part time apprenticeships: Camden were one of the first local authorities to do a trial of adult part time apprenticeships supporting 9 residents into part time roles. They are feeding into further development of the model with Timewise.   

Spreading the word with partners and suppliers: Camden have used strategic forums like the Camden Business Board and local Business Improvement Districts to raise awareness of agile working and explore opportunities for collaboration. Information on flexible working and social value is now included in the guidance accompanying the council’s procurement processes.

Advisory Panel: Camden established an advisory panel comprising local business leaders, flexible working experts, lead HR practitioners from the local public sector and experts in labour markets and social innovation to offer challenge and support in the ongoing delivery of the Council’s commitment to this agenda.

Together, these initiatives are creating positive change both within the council and in the wider community. They are benefiting from:

  • higher quality talent attraction
  • a more flexible workforce
  • helping long term unemployed members of the community into work.

“We first partnered with Timewise in 2014, and they have supported our efforts to become a leading flexible employer ever since.  We helped design and pioneer the Timewise Council programme and Camden is proud to be the UK’s first Timewise Council. We continue to communicate the importance of flexible hiring to local organisations and through our supply chain.  We have piloted part-time apprenticeships and worked with the Women Like Us team within Timewise to deliver work programmes for low income families in our borough.  We have valued the Timewise partnership as it has helped us to be far more strategic in our approach to flexible working, driving positive change in both how we work as an employer and how we support our residents to get access to better quality jobs that raise their living standards and give them the flexibility they need.”

Karen Galy, Head of Placeshaping and Economic Development