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Promoting flexible working to enhance nursing retention

Andrew Doherty 11 Apr 2022

The RCN manifesto for the Northern Ireland Assembly election calls for a clear commitment by all health and social employers to facilitate greater flexible working opportunities to help improve nursing workforce recruitment and retention.

According to the RCN Employment Survey 2021, almost half (47.8%) of RCN members in Northern Ireland say they are not satisfied with the choice they have over the length of the shifts they work. Less than half (40.3%) of RCN members here say they feel able to balance their working life and their home life. The right to access flexible working is particularly important in a predominantly female workforce but may be necessary for a variety of reasons related to childcare or other caring responsibilities, access to study time, or simply wanting to achieve a better work-life balance.


Promoting flexible working must be an essential part of the retention strategy that is currently being developed by the Department of Health. This will require an amendment to Agenda for Change terms and conditions to enable flexible working requests to be made at any time, as is currently the case in England and Wales, and being introduced in Scotland. It also relies on employers updating policies to facilitate flexible working requests. Time and again, RCN members tell us that they have submitted such requests but that they have been turned down by their employer, often for no apparent reason.


The RCN Employment Survey 2021 found that over half (55.9%) of RCN members are either thinking of leaving or planning to leave their current role, with a further 13.2% unsure. Promoting greater flexible working would be one important way of showing nurses that they are valued and that their employer is prepared to take decisive action in order to help retain the nursing staff upon which our health and social care services rely.

Andrew Doherty

Andrew Doherty

RCN Northern Ireland Board

Page last updated - 12/04/2022