The BRC takes action to stamp out gender inequality in retail

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has launched a major initiative to drive gender diversity in retail.

The trade association has partnered with Timewise, an agent in the flexible recruitment market, to support retailers’ efforts in improving talent attraction, retention and progression through flexible working.

The retail industry is the UK’s largest private sector employer, employing around three million people. With flexibility cited as one of the top reasons to work in retail, approximately two thirds of these employees work part time, the majority of whom are women, according to the BRC.

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However, a lack of part time opportunities in retail management roles means that many part-time workers, particularly women, are held back from progressing their careers and raising their earnings, from fear of losing that flexibility in their working hours.

Research from the BRC revealed last year that over 65% of part time retail employees stated that they would want to progress into a managerial role if they could maintain a flexible or part time working pattern.

The retail industry faces a new challenge from a potential skills shortage that a post- Brexit labour market may bring, while the UK employment rate currently stands at a record high.

At a time when the industry is trying to enhance its productivity, it’s never been more important to attract, retain and progress the best possible talent.

Responding to the challenge, the BRC and Timewise aim to roll out a flexible job design programme, targeted specifically at retailers to unlock the potential of those working in the industry part time and enhance their opportunities to progress.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “As the largest private sector employer in the UK with around three million people working across retail and wholesale, the pay and progression of our staff is incredibly important to us.

“Our Retail 2020 research revealed that flexibility is the second most important reason to work in retail, but in some cases this is a trade-off which may hold some people back from fulfilling their potential or optimising their pay. It is important that these part-time workers are able to progress within organisations when they choose to and we’re working in partnership with Timewise, to support retailers with the task of delivering these opportunities in flexible ways. Such collaboration is important to ensure retail remains an attractive industry to work and grow in.”

Timewise joint CEO Emma Stewart said“We’re thrilled to be working together with British Retail Consortium on this first-of-a-kind flexible job design programme for UK retailers. 

“With a post-Brexit labour market in sight, robust flexible working strategies where jobs are designed with their people in mind, is what will create a win-win situation for UK retailers – from being able to attract the best possible people, maximising the skills of their existing talent, ensuring career progression, and addressing challenges such as low productivity and gender equality.”