DEMAND for part-time jobs at Zurich has surged since the insurance giant launched a new flexible working scheme.

This happened after the Swindon-based business introduced in March 2019 a first-of-its-kind initiative to advertise, using gender-neutral language, all new vacancies as a potential part-time, job share or full-time opportunity - alongside flexible working.

Applications for part-time work rose from six per cent to 11 per cent, and in the past twelve months alone, nearly one in four new female hires (23 per cent) were appointed on a part-time basis, which is up from 10 per cent in 2019.

The data shows a surge in requests for more flexible working since the pandemic. Pre-Covid, 12 per cent of external female hires were on a part-time basis, in stark contrast to the 12 months following the first national lockdown when it soared to 22 per cent, suggesting the need for flexibility as many struggle to balance caring and home-schooling responsibilities with work.

This statistic is ten times higher than the male counterparts hired on a part-time basis which have remained consistent at just 2 per cent.

As well as doubling the number of part-time hires overall, Zurich has seen numbers of applications from both men and women boosted by more than two thirds since the initiative was launched. This could be attributed to people future proofing their careers ahead of life changes further down the line, and the gender-neutral language is thought to have encouraged more women to apply for roles.

Zurich UK's HR director Steve Collinson said: "As advocates of flexible working for over a decade, we know that people still want to progress their careers whilst managing a whole host of other commitments. Our approach is about removing barriers for those who need flexibility.

"We are urging the government to make businesses like ours advertise all roles as being available on a more flexible basis wherever they can.

“Our part-time jobs initiative means we’re able to access a whole new pool of talent. This is a priority for us in the current climate and benefits working parents, carers, those with portfolio careers or other interests they want to pursue. As the labour market tightens, employers need to rethink their approach to attracting and retaining talent. Workers want a new deal and are no longer prepared to work in outdated and rigid patterns.”

To develop its flexible working initiative, Zurich joined forces with the Behavioural Insights Team to identify issues that were blocking career progression for women. The research highlighted a lack of applications from women for senior roles. Many of these roles have not previously been available on a part-time or flexible basis and female employees reported that this lack of apparent flexibility was making them less likely to apply.