Innovation

Parents and older workers are dropping out of sight, but employers and employees don’t agree on why

Myriam Robin /

Businesses think the cost of childcare is holding back parents from the workforce, but employees disagree, according to a study released yesterday.

More than 80% of businesses surveyed by human resource service provider Kronos said the high cost of childcare was the most pressing issue holding back people from a return to the workforce after a career break.

But when Kronos quizzed 2000 employees across a range of sectors, it got a very different response.

The vast majority (72%) cited long, inflexible hours as the number-one factor preventing them from taking work. Of the women surveyed, a staggering 96.7% said they were keen to return to work should their employer offer flexible hours. The attitudes were reflected among retired workers – 96.6% of retirees aged 55 to 64 said they would like to keep working if flexible hours were an option.

Of the 500 business decision-makers quizzed by Kronos, only 54% said they were willing to adapt their hours to employee needs. Half said flexibility was too disruptive to the working environment, while 37% said the administration and management of flexible work policies were prohibitively complex.

Peter Harte, Kronos’ Asia-Pacific vice president, said given Australia is “in the midst of a major skills shortage, the results of our survey [show] there is a clear opportunity for businesses to reassess their workforce management strategy in order to access a pool of talent that is ready, willing and able to work.”

Flexible or part-time workers are a boon to businesses, boosting productivity, Harte added. He cited a recent Ernst & Young study that showed women who work part-time or flexible hours waste 11.1% of work time, compared to the 14.5% of work time that is wasted by full-time workers.

The study is the second tranche of results released by Kronos; the first tranche looked at who businesses consider to be ‘ideal’ workers.

According to those results, the ideal worker preferred by businesses was young, male and unattached.

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Myriam Robin

Myriam Robin is a reporter for SmartCompany and its sister site LeadingCompany. She has degrees in economics, international studies and journalism. She likes writing about businesses taking risks and doing new things.

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