Increased flexibility in NZ means better balance in the boardroom

From March 2015, employers across New Zealand have had to create and uphold an employment relations framework that increases flexibility and choice within their organisation after the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 was introduced.

This means direct improvement to Kiwi’s flexible working arrangements, with the aim to improve people’s participation in the labour market and to better reflect modern lifestyles. This should help break down the barriers to working alongside caring responsibilities for young and old, commuting times, location, and proximity and ease of access to the office.

Prior to this in New Zealand, it is interesting the general lack of encouragement by organisations for flexible working arrangements, given the numerous benefits acknowledged as a result. Improved staff retention, increased productivity, lower recruitment costs, increased morale are all shown to be by-products of flexibility in the workplace. However, it’s the notion of reducing skill wastage by increasing opportunity for individuals to be employed in roles they are skilled for and desire to do, by simply offering flexible terms, that is of greatest impact to our community.

Careers no longer need to be put on hold for kids or caring for elderly parents prioritised over promotions. Increased flexibility can help us have the best of both worlds, where work works for employee and the employer.

Specifically the largest group this increased flexibility will positively impact are females. For many New Zealand women, the demands of their job, balanced with the demands of family life and other priorities, is a major deterrent to returning to full-time work, or their careers, after having children. Flexibility hasn’t always been encouraged by employers, in fact it has been seen as code for ‘distractedly multi-tasking at home’ or ‘leaving early’, and is often heavily promoted but somewhat begrudgingly given as a company benefit. But now, in New Zealand at least, it’s non-negotiable.

Addressing flexibility is one step towards addressing the inbalance of females in the boardroom. Their perspective, communication style, difference of opinion, drive, energy and ability are the assets and accolades that should ensure that females have a seat on every board and at every management meeting which would ensure better balance and better business.

Flexibility is no longer a perk in New Zealand, it’s a right. What would the impact of this Act look like in Australia?

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