Earlier this year Victoria's Minister for Women, Natalie Hutchins, released a report into workplaces commissioned by the Andrews Labor Government.
The Flexible work, good for business? study, undertaken by the Nous Group, revealed that flexible work environments improve workforce participation and work-life balance, boosting productivity, and overall, are better for the business' bottom line.
Flexible workplaces are those in which part-time work, unplanned leave, flexitime, time in lieu, job-sharing and working from home are routinely factored into work arrangements.
Findings showed that while there may be some costs associated with flexible work, such as infrastructure costs or administrative support, ultimately flexible work delivers net cost savings.
The study is part of the Victorian Government's commitment to addressing a range of issues related to gender equality and access to services and support for women in the workforce.
Chair of the Equal Workplaces Advisory Council and Principal Lawyer and Board member at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Liberty Sanger, told ArtsHub, ‘Flexible work benefits individuals, organisations and society as a whole'.
She continued: ‘The benefits include improved work-life balance, improved staff productivity and staff retention for organisations. Companies may also find that they’re better able to attract quality employees, and that their absenteeism rates go down.’
Comprised of representatives from unions, employers, academics, the not-for-profit sector and the public sector, the Equal Workplaces Advisory Council (EWAC) was established by the Victorian Government to identify ways to achieve and promote gender equality and pay equity in our workplaces.
Nous Group, engaged by The Office of Prevention and Women’s Equality (OPWE), also undertook case studies to develop a model to calculate the financial return for businesses and organisation in implementing a flexible work environment.
Nous Group developed a model, Felix: The Nous FlexiWork Savings Calculator, which will enable employers to easily calculate the overall return on investing in access to flexible work for their own organisation.
‘Supportive leadership is critical to the “normalisation” of flexible work arrangements. We need workplaces where flexibility is the norm, not the exception, and where it is role modelled, valued and rewarded,' Sanger said.
‘It’s great that this report will give confidence to employers to take the next step towards creating equal, engaged and productive workplaces.’
Another upside to flexible work environments is that they help to normalise and add value to "flexible work" encouraging more men to take up the option.
She added, ‘There’s also a vast body of evidence that suggests offering men and women flexible work options will lead to improved workplace gender equality.’
MORE THAN FLEXIBILITY, IT’S ALSO ABOUT PARITY
‘There’s also a vast body of evidence that suggests offering men and women flexible work options will lead to improved workplace gender equality,’ said Sanger.
'The Victorian Government recently released an exposure draft of the Gender Equality Act which will put in place a more defined and measureable plan to deal with the gender pay gap in the Victorian public sector.
'The absence of flexible work is a key contributor to the gender pay gap and drives women out of the paid workforce. We know that women continue to perform the bulk of unpaid work and caring duties. Women shouldn’t suffer a “motherhood tax” when undertaking caring responsibilities and men also need to be better supported to undertake caring responsibilities,' she said.
Earlier this year EWAC was host to The Women@Work Conference, which provided practical tools for businesses and organisations to enable them to boost workplace equality.
At the conference EWAC launched the Gender Equality Pledge for organisations and individuals wishing to show a commitment to actions that will support gender equality in Victorian workplaces.
The Gender Equality Pledge for organisations and individuals included a commitment to gender pay equity and completing a gender pay audit; implementing a flexible work policy; support of a safe and respectful workplace; support for progression and leadership opportunities for women, and implementing a family violence leave policy.
‘It’s important that we continue to track our progress and report on those results. Gender pay audits are a relatively new phenomena in Australia, despite us having had equal pay laws for 50 years. As the saying goes, those things that are not measured don’t get done,’ said Sanger.
‘Research shows that organisations that pay fairly, ensure their employees can achieve their pay potential and have a diverse and inclusive workplace culture are more successful, have higher rates of staff engagement and are more profitable.
‘It goes without saying that replicating this across every workplace would be of great benefit to the Victorian, and the Australian, economy.’
To view the full report visit: vic.gov.au/women
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