Employers urged to be creative with flexible work to boost equality

Survey: Few organizations offer 'all roles flex'

Employers urged to be creative with flexible work to boost equality

Employers across Australia are being encouraged to be "creative" when implementing their flexible work policies as remote and hybrid work become even more popular in workplaces.

The latest census from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) found that 71% of employers have a formal work-from-home policy, up from the previous 35% in 2019.

Other forms of flexible work have also become available, such as job-sharing (52%), flexible hours of work (74%), and a compressed working week (42%).

But employers should learn to be creative, according to WGEA director Mary Wooldridge.

"Flexible work is a key driver for gender equality, but employers should be creative to enable their employees to have flexibility that meets their specific needs," Wooldridge said.

Improving flexibility

To boost flexibility, Wooldridge urged employers to consider the following actions:

  • Implement an “all roles flex” policy for all employees, regardless of gender, age, caring responsibilities, or level in the organisation.
  • Trust people by driving a culture of performance, not presenteeism.
  • Lead from the top with managers and leadership teams encouraged to role-model flexible work arrangements.
  • Communicate effectively with remote workers, including the use of collaborative management software, by conducting meetings for hybrid or remote teams online or more regular written or audio-visual updates on tasks.
  • Set clear boundaries and expectations on work hours and email communication for remote employees.

‘All roles flex’ still limited

The "all roles flex" policy has been around for years now as large employers adopt them to break down gender inequality in the workplace. Under this policy any employee for any reason can access flexibility, according to University of Sydney Associate Professor Rae Cooper.

In 2022, however, only 38% of employers in WGEA's census report said they are implementing this approach. Per industry, 48% of mixed-gender industries said they offer the "all roles flex" approach, while only 30% from male- and female-dominated industries provide the benefit.

"Innovative actions we've seen from employers include creating shifts specifically within or outside of school hours and offering job sharing or part-time work arrangements for managerial or executive roles," Wooldridge said. "These types of measures make it easier for men and women to equally participate in the workforce – whether that's from the office or home."

The findings come as women remain at a disadvantage when it comes to participating in the workforce, with childcare or looking after their kids significantly influencing their career decisions. According to ABS data, giving women the ability work part-time is the "most important incentive" to get them to return to work or work more hours.

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