Supporting employees to achieve a work life balance

The South Australian Government has identified a healthy work-life balance as one of its 100 State Strategic Targets in the State Strategic Plan and this is cited as being key to the improvement of South Australians’ quality of life. Acknowledging the importance of an employee’s parental, family and personal commitments is also a fundamental way to attract and retain female employees.

Work-life balance is a subjective measure with needs and preferences likely to vary for each employee. It is helpful to consider a range of options that can be tailored to suit the individual’s circumstances and the requirements of their job role.

 

Flexible working arrangements

Flexible working arrangements help employees to fulfil parenting, family and personal commitments, along with reducing the stress that often arises from conflicting demands between work and other responsibilities.

The Workplace Gender Equity Agency cites work and career flexibility as a key driver and enabler of equality, diversity and inclusion. Benefits provided by flexible working arrangements extend to all employees, such as supporting fathers with the dropping off and/or picking up children from child care and school, grandparents who are looking after grandchildren, employees with sick relatives who require ongoing care, as well as employees who are approaching retirement and are keen to be working fewer hours.

Flexible working arrangements are negotiated between an employer and employee and may include offering an employee:

  • flexibility with start and finishing times (within a core working period)
  • access to annual leave and accrued rostered days off as part-days
  • taking time off in lieu of overtime payments
  • working more hours over fewer days
  • working additional hours to make up for time taken off
  • providing part-time work
  • adjusting shift work rosters
  • creating job share arrangements
  • the option to work from home (where the role permits) through providing remote access to emails and computer networks
  • provision for employees to purchase longer periods of paid leave.

 

Offering flexible working arrangements is a significant employee benefit that assists with the ongoing engagement, attraction and retention of employees. Further advantages for businesses include:

  • reduction in employee turnover, resulting in reduced recruitment and training costs
  • reduced absenteeism
  • improved productivity
  • an increase in the number of people returning to work after parental leave

 

It is important to develop guidelines and train leaders on how to support and manage employees working flexibly. This includes ensuring that employees accessing flexible working arrangements continue to have access to the same benefits, training and promotional opportunities as full-time employees.

As an example some inter-state transport operators are now offering greater flexibility to their workers through offering them the shorter change over runs, which allows them to better accommodate their family commitments. This change has proved a popular initiative with women enabling them to more easily participate in the industry.

 

Employer obligations

The Fair Work Act 2009 contains minimum entitlements which an employer must provide to assist employees with achieving a better work and family balance. Access to entitlements will vary depending on the employee’s circumstances but generally this includes employees who:

  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is of school age or younger
  • are a carer (within the meaning of the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • have a disability
  • are 55 or older
  • are experiencing violence from a member of their family or
  • provide care or support to a member of their immediate family or household, who requires care or support because they are experiencing violence from their family.

 

For further information:

Fair Work Ombudsman’s:

 

Questions for reflection:

  • Which flexible working options are currently offered to employees? What has worked well and what could be improved?
  • Are employees and leaders aware of options available for working flexibly?
  • Do employees on flexible working arrangements have access to the same benefits, training and promotional opportunities as full-time employees?
  • Are there any cultural factors in the organisation (e.g. managers’  or colleagues’ attitudes) that discourage people from accessing flexible working options?