With the passing of the new Flexible Working Bill, businesses in Cumbria are being urged to consider offering more flexible working options as a solution to the county's staffing challenges.

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) is organising a series of free recruitment events in Barrow, Carlisle, Kendal, and Whitehaven this month, aiming to bring together businesses and potential job seekers interested in flexible working.

Rachel Wlodarczak, CLEP’s head of employment and skills, said: “As of July this year there were 6,795 people looking for work in Cumbria and an Office for National Statistics survey estimates there are around 57k economically inactive people aged 16 to 64 in our county who are not working and not available for work.

“Yet despite these numbers there are huge staffing challenges in many sectors like hospitality and health and social care. There are many reasons people don’t or can’t find employment, but we know flexibility is increasingly important post pandemic as people face long-term health issues or have caring or family responsibilities.

“There are many businesses across Cumbria who already actively embrace flexible working policies but it’s often not something they shout about. Because flexible working is so varied from reduced and condensed hours to hybrid-working it’s often difficult to promote these in a job advert.

“Given the fact that all businesses now have to offer flexible working from day one we’re hoping our events will attract businesses large and small and help them find employees.

“Similarly, we hope early retires who might want to return to work on less hours or those with caring responsibilities like parents who might benefit from working around school hours will visit their local event to see the many options available. Ultimately, we want to attract more people into the Cumbrian labour market.”

The recruitment events, supported by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Centre for Leadership and Performance, will take place on September 19 at The Forum in Barrow, September 21 at the People First Conference Centre in Carlisle, September 26 at Kendal Town Hall, and September 28 at Solway Hall in Whitehaven.

Nationally, economic inactivity rates have risen, with almost a fifth of working-age people (21 per cent) estimated to be economically inactive in the post-pandemic period.

This increase is primarily driven by individuals who are inactive due to reasons such as caring for family or a home, or being on long-term sick leave.

For more information about the recruitment events, visit www.thecumbrialep.co.uk/events/ or contact Rachel Wlodarczak at rachel.wlodarczak@thecumbrialep.co.uk.