Thursday 8 July 2021 1:12 pm

City minister says UK govt won't impose compulsory flexible working model on finance

The government won’t impose an obligatory flexible working model on financial services, as regulators ramp up pressure on firms to improve diversity and inclusion.

City minister John Glen said financial services firms should use the experience of remote working during the pandemic to decide how flexible working could help foster a more diverse workforce, but the government will not introduce an obligatory model.

“I don’t believe it’s right for government to prescribe a single model of how to do this,” he told a City & Financial conference on women in finance, first reported by Reuters.

As the government “work from home if you can” guidance is set to ease on 19 July, City firms have various different strategies for returning to the office, after the government handed the decision to individuals and businesses.

A dearth of flexible working patterns in the City has long been touted as a main reason for the lack of diversity in financial senior roles, making it harder for women to advance up the corporate ranks.

“What I want to see from financial services sector is a real commitment to tangible action that will improve diversity in the sector and a clear plan on how to get there,” Glen said.

He added that post-pandemic, when firms are re-assessing working patterns, “real opportunities can be taken.”

The minister’s comments come a day after the The Financial Conduct Authority, Prudential Regulation Authority and the Bank of England published a discussion paper with proposals for how to improve diversity and inclusion in financial services.

Proposals included in the paper are geared towards pushing further responsibility on to senior managers at financial services firms, making them directly accountable for diversity and inclusion at their company.

Among them, the regulators suggested basing senior staff pay on their firm’s diversity performance, and collecting more data on measures like flexible working to record and report progress.

The group of regulators is seeking feedback from regulated firms and industry bodies until 30 September, ahead of a joint consulatation with formal proposals expected to launch early next year.