Multiplex launches flexible work model to prioritise female talent and reduce gender pay gap

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Multiplex, a global construction contractor, has adopted a new flexible working programme, ‘Multiplex Flex’, as part of its efforts to increase the number and influence of women working across its UK business. 

The model is aimed at helping to shift the cultural dial of the construction industry and in response to employee engagement surveys conducted by the company. It's designed to address structurally related issues linked to gender equity, improving health and wellbeing as well as driving improved overall performance and productivity.
Statistics show that women made up the majority of part-time employment (38 per cent), compared to 13 per cent of men in 2020 (House of Commons Library research) and are more likely than men to take on caring roles. The unequal impact of caring roles is a major cause of the gender pay gap, and of the 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK 58 per cent - 3.34 million - are women, yet the population of women is 51 per cent. Women aged 45-54 are more than twice as likely as other carers to have reduced working hours as a result of caring responsibilities (Considerate Constructors).
These numbers, alongside issues surrounding the ‘long hour’ culture and gender inequality where representation in the industry hasn’t changed in 25 years at 12 per cent and 1 per cent on site, are just some of the drivers behind the implementation of Multiplex Flex, which the company hopes will help to attract and retain talent to support career progression and assist women into senior roles where the gender pay gap is highest at 95 per cent. It also supports the redistribution of care intra-households and the ability for colleagues to support their partners.
The new system of working will introduce a wide range of flexible options into day-to day working for Multiplex’s current UK workforce of 825, of which 21 per cent are female. The options, which include flexitime, early Friday finishes, weekend time off in lieu, 9-day fortnight compressed hours compressed working, teleworking and 4-day weeks, in addition to remote working, have been trialled and evaluated over the last six months on live projects by Multiplex, and independently reviewed by the flexible working consultancy, Timewise.
Multiplex’s project at The Broadway in Westminster, London, a mixed-use redevelopment of the former New Scotland Yard by Northacre, was one of the three project pilots, where all the flexible working options were tried. Multiplex Flex was also successfully piloted at its head office in London and University of Glasgow project, which received the Timewise Flexible Innovator Award. The strategy also goes further than the Flexible Working Bill introduced to parliament in June this year.
Uniquely, the project surveys also 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 structured staff focus groups. The objective was to optimise team-based solutions that actually 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 in order to promote accessibility, inclusivity and equity.

Key findings from the three ‘Flex’ pilots were:
•         A significant improvement in the work life balance, helping to tackle construction’s long hour culture
•         A redistribution of care responsibilities within households as more men were able to support their partners with school runs, pickups, and evening chores
•         Less stress and burnout
•         Increased trust as more people working flexibly normalises flexible working practices
•         No negative impact on project programme, productivity, or budgets, as well as improving Multiplex’s ability to meet client needs

Multiplex believes the implementation of its ‘Flex’ working programme will accelerate change towards a hybrid workforce but also its management capabilities and leadership, and inclusive culture to help it attract and retain female employees and increase their representation in on-site and senior leadership roles. It also makes sense from a business perspective as research from McKinsey shows that for every 10 per cent increase in gender diversity, profit increases by 3.5 per cent for UK companies.

The company’s gender diversity targets include:
•         50 per cent of all graduate intakes to be female by 2022
•         10 per cent of all projects to be led by a female team member by 2023
•         Improving the median gender pay gap by 10 per cent by 2025
•         At least 25 per cent representation across the whole UK workforce by 2025
Multiplex has introduced an internal Women’s Network to help achieve these targets even further. Its purpose is to create a high-performing workplace through an inclusive culture where all women have the freedom and opportunities they need to succeed, while supporting the drive to get more women into the business and the increased development for women in the business.

Callum Tuckett, Managing Director of Multiplex’s Europe business, says: “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.”

Angela Goldsmith, Timewise consultant, says: “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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