Deadline looms for businesses to adapt to new flexible reality

21 July 2015

The first-ever New Zealand survey about changes to the flexibility provisions in employment law highlights the growing risks for employers who are either unaware of their obligations, or are reluctant to comply with the new requirements.

The study, undertaken by recruitment group OCG Consulting and Diversitas, an Auckland-based diversity consultancy, found that 68% of people would consider leaving their current role if offered a comparable job but with greater flexibility.

Despite the paradigm shift in employee attitudes, there is low awareness amongst employers about how the Employment Relations Act amendment enshrines in law the right to ask for flexibility in work practices, the report finds.

Diversitas CEO Carol Brown warns employers that if they wish to sustain their businesses long term, and continue to attract and retain the best talent, they “ignore these trends at their peril”.

She says the report highlights a movement away from careers asking for flexibility for family reasons to more broad-based gender-neutral employee demands for greater work-life balance.

“2020, when according to the Department of Labour (Forces for change in the future labour market of New Zealand) workforce growth in the country is set to plateau and talent shortages become urgent, is only five years away,” says Brown. “Yet this report shows our businesses are not only unprepared but unaware of their legal requirements to meet the demands of the millennial generation.

“These trends illustrate that flexibility is critical to business sustainability long-term,” she says.

Renowned international futurist Kevin Wheeler, who spoke recently at the launch of Flexible Work Design: A Strategic Imperative in New Zealand Business, says the findings reflect fundamental changes in workplace practices globally that are presently underway.

“These changes are inexorable and business leaders must get on board the new flexible reality or lose valuable skilled staff to their competitors,” Wheeler says.

Key findings from the report are:

  • Only 28% of respondents have formal flexible working arrangements
  • Of those currently on a formal flexible working arrangement 69% were female with ‘caring for family members’ being the primary reason for needing flexibility
  • 46% of workers in the 31-45 year age group work flexibly
  • 80% of respondents stated work-life balance as a key benefit for flexible working, followed by 57% improved physical and mental well-being, and 48% the ability to balance caring responsibilities with work obligations
  • 49% of Millennials stated pursuing personal hobbies as the primary reason for wanting flexibility
  • The number one barrier in applying for flexible working arrangements is an organisational culture of ‘presenteeism’ or the need to be “seen at work”, versus output.
  • However those companies who have embraced flexible working report an impressive 71% positive impact on employee commitment and engagement, and as a result increased loyalty and staff retention.
For more information on flexible workforce design or to receive a full copy of the research report contact Carol Dallimore at Luminary Search or to view the presentations from Carol Brown and Kevin Wheeler click here
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