Is flexible work more important than you think?

| October 21, 2014

How are you keeping parents in your workforce? Nina Sochon highlights how employer expectations differ from the realities of when and why people return to work.

The cost of childcare has been all over the news.

Of particular concern is the fact that childcare (or lack of it) can keep people out of the workforce – but does it really play such a key role?

If you are an employer who thinks that the cost of childcare is the main reason your employees who become parents don’t return to the workforce, you’re not alone.

According to a Kronos study last year, which surveyed an impressive 2000 people, many employers think that the cost of childcare is the main reason employees who are parents don’t stay in the workforce.

Childcare certainly is expensive and is becoming more expensive with every year. According to a report in June this year by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, over the past five years child care prices rose by 44.2 per cent.

However, the cost of childcare is not the main concern for working parents.

Kronos did an interesting piece of research last year that shed some light. All of the women surveyed (96.7 per cent) were keen to return to work after a career break such as parenthood, if their employers offered flexible working hours.

The report found that working hours are the number one barrier preventing employees from making a return to work after a career break. Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of employees cited long hours as the number one factor preventing them from returning to work.

On the other hand, employers don’t share this view. Employers think that financial factors such as the cost of childcare is the reason parents don’t return to work – shown by a whopping 81% of business decision makers in the survey taking that view.

What this means for you is that you could be out of tune with the real reasons that make returning to work difficult.

It also means that there is a clear opportunity for businesses to “reassess their workforce management strategy to access a pool of talent that is ready, willing, and able to work,” to quote the Kronos statement on its report.

If you think that this is a one-off finding, consider research from the Australian Institute of Management Victoria and Tasmania (AIM VT). AIM VT found in a national survey that more than 50 per cent of employees who intend to remain with their current employers attribute their loyalty to the availability of flexible working arrangements in their workplace.

How are you keeping working parents in your workforce? Make a comment below with your thoughts, questions or comments. I’d love to hear your views.

I’ll leave you with a final thought. It’s a question Kronos asked when they released the report: “The war for talent in Australia is causing many organisations to increase their focus on attracting and retaining people. But while many look abroad for new candidates, have we really exhausted our staffing options locally?”

Nina Sochon is a Flexible and Remote Work Consultant at Nina Sochon Consulting. Nina led the Federal Government’s initiatives between 2011 and 2013 which established work from home and flexible work styles at the heart of the mainstream conversation about work in Australia. Nina now assists organisations to use flexible and remote work as business tools to dramatically improve service outcomes, maximise staff longevity and reduce the cost of overheads.