Hilary Lindsay 7 Apr 2017 10:00am

From the top: Hilary Lindsay

ICAEW president Hilary Lindsay on why access to flexible working needs to become central to businesses everywhere

Just over a year ago, I hosted a dinner for a dozen women members of ICAEW. I was determined when I became president that I was not going to be defined by my gender but I was also aware that nearly 30% of our members are women and I wanted to make sure I was doing what I could to look after that constituency. So over dinner we talked about many of the issues that women face in their careers as chartered accountants and it became clear that, if there was one thing in particular they wanted me to raise, it was flexible working and how to make it a positive career choice for everyone, both men and women.

Despite its obvious benefits, flexible working is still dogged by a widespread perception that it is aimed at women coming back after a career break and is seen as career limiting. But my dining companions saw it in a different light and wanted it to be celebrated as a way of helping people pursue both their careers and any other interests they have, whatever those might be.

The idea of flexible working also fits well with the changing shape of careers more generally. Since people are going to have to work for longer and embrace a number of career changes, they will be looking to work differently. Flexible working is something that Millennials want too. Indeed, as a younger member in -Sheffield told me recently, employers need to back the idea because employees will expect it as a given in future.

It seems obvious to me that if we, as an institute, want to help members use their qualification to the full and add as much value as possible to society while doing so, we need to make better use of their talent. Flexible working is key.

To take the initiative forward, I have recently been spending time talking to firms about flexible or as one called it, intelligent working, and in February I hosted a follow-up dinner. I asked my guests to pick three guidelines for employers about flexible working and three for employees; we discussed these and identified common key issues. We have now come up with draft guidance which, interestingly, includes joint as well as separate guidelines for employers and employees. I am keen to share these with as many of you as possible with the aim of refining them. Im also looking for interesting case studies. If you would like to contribute, please get in touch.

The idea of all this is to share some good examples, show people how it can happen in practice and encourage organisations to embrace flexible working and help members to have the futures and careers that they want. As I said in the January edition of economia, flexible working can help give you a win-win for everybody.

Have your say: email Hilary at president@ icaew.com