Normalise flexible work and parental leave for men and women

“If you are working flexibly you find zones when you work better, smarter, and harder… Slick technology means that we have multiple ways of communicating so it seems quite old-fashioned to me that an employer will require staff to always be in the office.”

Felicity Evans, General Manager, Human Resources for New Zealand and the Pacific, ANZ

Flexible work attracts talent

Businesses promoting flexible options have a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining good staff. The Diversity Survey 2015 found that work/life balance is the top priority for 69 percent of professionals when seeking a new role.

Career breaks and working flexibly currently penalise women

Access to flexibility and parental leave helps women stay in paid work while balancing caring responsibilities. However, career breaks and part-time work currently act as barriers to career advancement, as shown in the Ministry for Women report, Realising the Opportunity. Gender pay gaps increase when working women have families, and the gaps remain wide throughout their working lives.

Normalising reduces negative impacts

KPMG (2017) found that organisations with best practice in this area aim to normalise both men and women taking time out for caring duties. They offer support for both genders on re-entry to the workforce and flexibility thereafter. Their focus is on retaining employees by ensuring their return is sustainable.

You can:

  • Actively promote and model working flexibly and taking time out for caring work.
  • Understand legislation giving all employees the right to request flexible work options.
  • Assume all roles are flexible unless there is a good business reason why not.
  • Challenge assumptions that flexible and part-time workers have low commitment or ambition.
  • Have ‘keeping in touch hours’ for employees on parental leave and support them when they return.
  • Ensure you have clear policies around parental leave and flexible work options, as well as enabling technology.
  • Monitor pay, performance ratings and promotion statistics to ensure employees taking parental leave and/or working flexibly are not disadvantaged.(Accelerating the Advancement of Women and Our Commitment – Male Champions of Change and The Power of Flexibility Bain and Company 2016)

“You now have young people making up the majority of the workforce whose expectations of work are quite different to their parents. I see pockets of change already, but traditional hierarchical companies will find it hard to to survive unless they are prepared to be more flexible.”

Frances Valintine, Founder, The Mind Lab by Unitec

Other actions for employers