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Mainstreaming Flexible Working is the Best Solution for Mums Returning to Work

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It’s official, work/life balance is what we want most from our careers!  According to Hudson’s recently released Hiring Report, work life balance has just edged out higher salary as the primary motivator for Kiwi job seekers when considering a new job.


Long thought of as the domain of mums returning to the workforce; it seems the need for work/life balance is no longer gender biased and is valued by both men (48%) and women (52%) almost equally. 


Timely then that the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 has recently extended the legal right to ask for flexible working arrangements to all employees as opposed to just caregivers.  It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out.  It’s fair to say that it hasn’t always been easy for mums to get the big tick for our flexibility requests.  It’s often easier for an organisation to say “No” than it is to create the perfect flexible arrangement.  The prevailing view (for some) seems to have been that if we say “yes” to one we will have to say ‘yes” to all.  So much easier then to offer up excuses.  You know the kind I mean - “it’s not the sort of job or company where people can work flexibly” or “it’s not fair on the rest of the team or the customer”. 

 

This barrier to working flexibly is no doubt why so many women start their own business once they’ve had children.   Too often the only available flexible jobs have been ones that are inferior to the types of roles women have previously held; so some have simply opted out and created their own job to allow them to fulfil their family obligations. 


Ultimately mainstreaming flexibility for everyone, across all types of roles and at all levels, will make it easier for mums wanting to return to work on a part-time or flexible basis.  The reality is that many talented, professional people want flexible work for a variety of reasons.    In a talent short market, the ability to offer flexible arrangements will be a huge advantage for organisations to not only attract and retain skilled staff but also to boost productivity and create a more engaged workforce. 


Great to see some companies leading the charge with their approach to flexibility.  Vodafone’s new maternity policy is certainly a step in the right direction and will no doubt give them a competitive edge when it comes to retaining existing staff while attracting newcomers.  Coca-Cola Amatil and ANZ also have a raft of benefits to ease the transition from work to maternity leave and back again.


The newest kids on the job board block, Wellington based, Limber specialise in part time and flexible professional jobs and were set up in recognition that the world of work is changing and that a standard working week no longer suits most of us.  They have a broad range of roles on their site that are not limited to administration.


For those who have chosen to exit the workforce altogether to be a full time parent however it is often harder to break back in.  Employing professionals on a part-time or flexible basis could provide organisations with scarce talent that might otherwise not be participating in the workforce.  There is an extraordinary amount of talent, knowledge and experience hanging around the school gates just waiting to be tapped into. Offering flexible arrangements is a smart way for organisations to transition parents back into the workforce and to help plug some talent gaps along the way.

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