Wholesalers look to attract talent with flexible working study

Members of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors are planning to widen the pool of available talent in wholesale with a study of flexible working options in the sector.

The project will look at ways to make working in the wholesale industry more attractive to talented individuals who need and want to work part-time and flexibly, and support the progression of existing employees who also work on a flexible basis.

The research will be carried out by Timewise, a consultancy which helps employers design flexible working solutions that attract, retain and develop the best talent. Timewise will interview wholesalers’ HR representatives and operational managers to assess current practice, and barriers and opportunities for taking action on flexible working. A plan for a flexible job design programme will then be shared with all FWD members.

Nearly half (47%) of employees in wholesale are female but the 2017 Women in Wholesale Report suggests that less than 11% of senior management roles are currently filled by women.

In April next year, all large employers will be required by the Government to report on their gender pay gap and actions being taken to address this, including improving access to flexible and part-time working.

Timewise Joint CEO Emma Stewart MBE, who will introduce the project at today’s Women in Wholesale conference, says: “In coming years, wholesalers will be exposed to a looming supply shortage of workers, both as a result of Brexit and of the changing workforce demographic as the population ages.

“Flexibility in working hours is evidenced as one of the key drivers for women, and increasingly men, in making career choices, and is starting to out-rank pay as a determining factor for millennials in making decisions about potential job offers.

“The UK wholesale sector has a significant opportunity to develop its approach to flexible working as a way to position wholesale as an industry where both women and men can develop and progress their careers, whilst balancing work with life.”

FWD Chief Executive James Bielby said: “A balanced workforce greatly benefits wholesale, and this important project will establish best practice for making the sector more attractive to a deeper talent pool.”


Recent research1 published by Timewise indicates that more than 6 in 10 (63 per cent) permanent full time employees now work flexibly in some way, and of those who don’t, nearly two thirds (64 per cent) would prefer to.  One in four of all full time workers would specifically prefer to work part-time for part-time wages if it did not affect their pay per hour or career progression. The combined data indicates that 87% of full-time employees either currently work flexibly, or would like to work part-time or flexibly – with a strong preference for non-traditional working patterns from both male (84 per cent) and female (91 per cent) full time workers.


93% of non-workers who want a job would prefer to work either part-time, or flexibly in a full-time role. Reasons for wanting to work flexibly include work/life balance, or it being generally useful or convenient. Other reasons stated include commuting issues, leisure or study interests, and caring responsibilities.


1 Research report: ‘Flexible Working: A Talent Imperative’ (Timewise, September 2017).

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