Kiwi employees seeking more flexibility

  • 10/07/2015

By Fiona Rotherham

Around two-thirds of workers would consider leaving their job if offered a comparable one with greater flexibility, a new survey has found.

The study, undertaken by recruitment firm OCG and diversity consultancy Divertas, surveyed 1300 New Zealand workers across 20 industry sectors on changes to the flexibility provisions in employment law introduced last year.

The Employment Relations Act amendment gave workers the legal right to ask for flexibility in work practices, but there is low awareness of the change among employers.

Divertas chief executive Carol Brown said a perception persists that managers can use their discretion when it comes to flexible work, ring-fencing jobs and people they want to offer those arrangements to even though the law changes mean there have to be solid grounds for refusal.

The survey found only 28 percent of respondents have formal flexible working arrangements and more than half weren't aware of their rights.

A further 28 percent who don't have flexible work, plan to apply for it within the next year.

Women remain the predominant users, mainly so they could care for family members.

The survey found workers of both genders aged 31-45 were by far the largest users of flexible work, which Ms Brown said was an issue for companies as this included middle management who would eventually become organisation leaders.

When asked about the key benefits to them, most respondents cited work-life balance and improved physical and mental well-being.

Gen X respondents were more focused on caring responsibilities while Millennials wanted to be able to pursue personal interests.

The main barrier stopping workers asking for flexible work, particularly Millennials, is fear of negative career consequences. They're concerned it will be career limiting due to a widespread culture of "presenteeism" - needing be seen at work rather than being judged on output.

They're also worried about excessive workload if reducing their hours.

"Most managers are not equipped to have the conversation or manage on outputs, they just see it as more hassle," said Ms Brown.