Many large organisations in Australia have policies and practices in place to support flexible working arrangements but has this become common practice? Is it worth it?

The underlying logic to having flexible work practices is that by giving employees more flexibility to carry out their roles, they will be happier, further engaged and more loyal driving attraction and retention. Flexible working solutions include; part time hours, job sharing, working from home, compressed hours, flexi-time, sabbaticals, staggered hours and phased retirement.

Unfortunately, many organisations still don’t trust employees to be as productive at home as they are in the office and many workers feel that working from home is perceived negatively by colleagues and senior management. Managing a workforce that don’t all work at the same time and place also requires extra planning, thought and technology.

Other countries are far more advanced in their flexible work practices compared to Australia, for example in France they have implemented a 35 hour work week, and in Scandinavian countries like Norway, employees work an average of 33 hours per week. Denmark has a standard 29 hour work week which makes it the lowest weekly hours worked for any developed country.

In addition to employees taking advantage of less overall hours worked, these nations have also developed strong paid leave programs, including mandatory holidays, maternal and paternal paid time off. In these countries, there are employment laws which protect against worker burnout and these countries strive for achieving work-life balance and productivity.

In Denmark, the average paid vacation allowance is five weeks, and in Norway it is 21 days each year with an additional 43 weeks of paid maternity leave. Belgium, has “career breaks,” which means that every Belgian employee is allowed a one-year break from their job throughout their career lifetime, during which employees receive a spending allowance from their government.

While flexible work used to be reserved for employees with care giving responsibilities, today a wider range of employees want to access flexible work arrangements for numerous reasons.

A recent study found that Australia could save up to $108.7 million per week in travelling costs and the majority of workers spend at least an hour a day travelling.

The study also found that 73% of people aged 55 to 69 would work more hours and stay in the workforce longer if there were more flexible work options available. In monetary terms, this would equate to adding 2.1 million potential work years to Australia’s national productivity.

To get with the times and really drive employee engagement, businesses could reassess how they could implement better flexible working arrangements. It’s also the law in Australia that certain employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements and businesses can only refuse the request on reasonable business grounds. Reasonable business grounds include things like cost, rostering arrangements, loss in productivity or negative impact on customer service. Employers are required to respond to these requests in writing within 21 days.

For more information on how to make your workplace more flexible, or to understand your obligations around flexible working arrangement requests, give us a call at HR Gurus on 1300 959 560 where one of our experts would be happy to help.

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