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Tue August 09 2022

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Multiplex targets women with flexible working

15 Oct 21 Multiplex has joined the ranks of major contractors adopting flexible working programmes.

Multiplex employees Emily Mitton and Libby Clark
Multiplex employees Emily Mitton and Libby Clark

Multiplex Flex is designed to address structural issues linked to gender equity, improving health and wellbeing as well as driving improved overall performance and productivity.

The contractor hopes that it will increase the number of women across its UK business, and encourage them to stay with the company longer to rise higher up the ranks.

A range of flexible working options will be available for Multiplex’s current UK workforce of 825, of which 21% are female. Options include flexitime, early Friday finishes, weekend time off in lieu, nine-day fortnight (compressed hours), teleworking and four-day weeks, in addition to remote working.

They have all been trialled and evaluated over the last six months on live projects by Multiplex, assisted by flexible working consultancy Timewise.

Multiplex’s project at The Broadway in Westminster, London, a mixed-use redevelopment of the former New Scotland Yard building by Northacre, was one of the three project pilots, where all the flexible working options were tried. Multiplex Flex was also piloted at head office in London and a University of Glasgow project.

The project surveys captured informal flexible working arrangements already agreed with managers, enabling this data to form part of the research, which was subsequently evaluated and discussed by 15 staff focus groups. The objective here was to optimise team-based solutions that work for all, on a site-by-site basis, rather than focussing on HR and contractual considerations. It adopts a blend of informal and formal options, determined at a team level to optimise work patterns ‘to promote accessibility, inclusivity and equity’.

The three Flex pilots revealed that those allowed to work flexibly saw a significant improvement in their work life balance and felt less stressed. Men were better able to support their partners with domestic chores and school runs. There were no apparent negative impacts on project programme, productivity or budgets.

Multiplex’s experience appears identical to that of other major contractors with whom Timewise has worked.

An 18-month study trialling different models of flexible working at BAM Construct, BAM Nuttall, Skanska and Willmott Dixon between June 2020 and February 2021 showed no negative impacts on deadlines or budgets and a significant upturn in employee job satisfaction. [See our previous report here.]

Multiplex wants to reduce the dominance of men in the business and has a target of reducing the male:female ratio from 79:21 to 75:25 by 2025. From next year, 50% of all graduate intakes to be female, it says, and 10% of projects will be led by a woman by 2023.

Callum Tuckett, managing director of Multiplex’s Europe business, said: “It is well-documented that the construction industry is behind the curve in terms of creating opportunities for women, including pay equity and career progression. By enabling project directors to unlock formal and informal flexible ways of working and introducing more flexible options throughout the employee life cycle of recruitment, training and promotion, we are convinced we can create a working environment at Multiplex that is not only equitable and more diverse, but happy, healthy and productive.”

Timewise consultant Angela Goldsmith said: “Multiplex is building real momentum in the construction industry in terms of its approach to flexibility and the wide variety of flexible working options it makes available to its people. Its investment in senior-level sponsorship and training and support for managers makes it stand out as an exciting prospective employer that is serious about its commitments to diversity and inclusion.”

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