Multiplex targets more female employees with flexible working plan

Emily Mitton, Multiplex package manager (left) and Libby Clark, package manager

Multiplex has adopted a new flexible working plan called ‘Multiple Flex’ as part of a bid to increase the number and influence of women working in the business.

The new flexible working model is designed to address structural issues linked to gender equity, improving health and well-being as well as driving improved performance and productivity.

Multiplex said that a “long hours” culture in construction meant that representation in the industry had not changed in 25 years with women making up 12% of the workforce overall and 1% on site.

According to House of Commons Library research, women also make up the majority of part-time employment (38%), compared with 13% of men in 2020 and are more likely to take on caring roles.

Multiplex Flex will involve a range of flexible working options for the UK workforce of 825 people, of which 21% are female.

The options include flexi-time, early Friday finishes, weekend time off in lieu, nine-day fortnight compressed hours, teleworking and four-day weeks, in addition to remote working. The various options have already been trialled and evaluated by Multiplex over the past six months on live projects, and independently reviewed by the flexible working consultancy, Timewise.

Siu Mun Li, head of temporary works at Multiplex

The company hopes its new approach will boost career progression and assist women into senior roles where the gender pay gap is highest at 95%. It also supports the redistribution of care within households and the ability of colleagues to support their partners.

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 piloted at its head office in London and University of Glasgow project, which received the Timewise Flexible Innovator Award.

Key findings from the three ‘Flex’ pilots were:

  • A significant improvement in 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 improvements in Multiplex’s ability to meet client needs.

Multiplex said that in addition to helping it attract and retain female employees and increase their representation in onsite and senior leadership roles, research from consultant McKinsey shows that for every 10% increase in gender diversity, profit increases by 3.5% for UK companies.

The company’s gender diversity targets include:

  • 50% of all graduate intakes to be female by 2022;
  • 10% of all projects to be led by a female team member by 2023;
  • Improving the median gender pay gap by 10% by 2025;
  • At least 25% representation across the whole UK workforce by 2025.

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 lifecycle 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, added: “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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  1. This is great news, particularly recognition that the changes that encourage the career progression of women can benefit everyone working in construction – the suicide rates and skills shortages are telling indicators of the need for improvement in many areas.

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