Flexible working

Flexible work isn’t just a women’s issue

Flexible work isn't just a women's issue. We look at why more business and government leaders need to get with the program.

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Flexible work isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a matter of national importance and Australia needs to get with the program.

That’s my money statement, and I’m rolling with it, especially as Financy focuses on the issue at the flex, finance and your Futures event in Brisbane today, in partnership with fellow start-up Jobs Shared.

Flexible working is commonly seen as the poorer cousin to full-time 9-5 work, and as something for those who aren’t as serious about making money and hitting the top of their careers.

But the push is on to change that view both at the coalface of business and in government.

Women want greater flexibility with work and thanks to technology, businesses are increasingly offering this including work from home or job share opportunities.

Such efforts combined with increased awareness of gender pay and superannuation savings gaps between men and women, have contributed to a recent increase in the number of women working full-time or starting their own businesses.

But whether change is happening fast enough is another issue.

The challenge remains that most part-time and flexible work options are dominated by women, who often choose to go down this path so that they can be there for kids or loved ones.

Such roles, and flexible arrangements tend to be offered to those working in services such as health and education or administration.

There has also been more flexibility offered to those people willing to occupy non-management roles – namely women.

As this all feeds a national gender wealth gap, it’s the economy and women which are left worse off by the acceptance of somewhat stereotypical flexible work options with little room for growth.

Indeed AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver has told Financy that if more were done to encourage women back to the workforce after having kids, or at a full time capacity, that this could be equivalent to a mining-like boom for the Australian economy.

A new piece of research also adds weight to the fact that most of us, not just women, could do with a bit more employer backed flexibility and it’s likely to help everyone’s bottom-line.

According to a survey of 5400 people by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), too many people are afraid to ask their bosses for greater workplace flexibility to care for loved ones.

As such the ACTU is calling for a new entitlement for workers to temporarily reduce their hours to help them manage parenting or other caring responsibilities.

Flexible work is all too often regarded as a woman’s work option rather than something to help men with families.

This needs to change, especially when you consider these ACTU survey findings as highlighted by Fairfax.

  • Almost 85 per cent of Australians have or have had a caring role, which is primarily children or someone elderly or with an illness.
  • Almost 40 per cent of workers have asked their employer for reduced hours for caring and almost a quarter of these had been knocked back
  • Women are almost twice as likely to ask for reduced hours for caring;
  • Employers are 50 per cent more likely to reject a male worker’s request for reduced hours
  • Inflexible workplace culture is the reason most cited for workers not asking for reduced hours to care for a family member;
  • Nearly one in five workers surveyed was not able to access reduced hours needed for caring responsibilities.

It’s time we all pushed a bit harder for work flexibility and remember that it’s not just a woman’s issue but a bigger one that affects us now and in the future.

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