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

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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