Flexible working hours key for staff retention, claims workplace relations specialist

Over a third of Australian employers believe that offering staff flexible work arrangements is the best way stop them searching out alternative employment, according to figures released by Employsure.

The firm found that employers found that work-life balance ranks highest for staff retention, overshadowing pay rises and training.

Edward Mallett headshotEdward Mallett, Managing Director of Employsure, said: “Our research clearly shows that staff often need to organise working hours around family commitments and they appreciate the opportunity to do so. This is seen as more compelling for staff retention than remuneration, training, and often costly enticements such as staff events.”

The survey polled 461 small to medium businesses and the findings put staff retention in the spotlight at a time when, according to recent statistics from consultancy firm Accenture, one in five employed Australians are looking for a new role at any given time.

Keeping staff happy should be a focus for SMEs, Mr Mallett said, as replacing people is costly and time-consuming. “Costs can add up with recruitment advertising, and there’s so much time invested to hire and train new employees. If it’s a sudden departure, other staff need to step in for their colleague, compromising their own workload.

“Considering our new research, employers should approach requests for flexible working arrangements with an open mind. Addressing this real-world issue will help managers retain staff and make their workplace more desirable to new recruits.”

Mr Mallet cited recently published research by recruiter Robert Walters that found four in 10 professionals turn down jobs that fail to offer flexible working arrangements.

Managing flexible working requests
“This is not simply a management issue,” Mr Mallett said. “There is a serious side to the picture. Permanent employees are entitled to apply for flexible working arrangements if they have been with the company for 12 months and: are the parent or primary carer for school-aged or younger children; are a carer; have a disability; are 55 or older; are experiencing family or domestic violence or they provide care or support to someone in their household or immediate family who are victims of family or domestic violence.

“Their requests can only be denied if there are reasonable business grounds to support this decision. For example, the cost to the company, the impact on other staff or any equipment needed to fulfil the task away from the workplace, and so on.”

For those employees who are not officially entitled to flexible work arrangements, businesses still have to comply with current legislation that prevents discrimination against employees because of certain characteristics such as race, religion and marital status.

This means employers should consider the reason for any request for flexible working hours carefully and ensure they treat all employees equally and fairly.

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