My employee says I am an inflexible boss. Am I?

Dear Aunty B,

I have a great reputation for offering my staff family flexibility. Staff can leave early or late, I have two PAs job sharing and while I don’t have child care on our premises I do let people bring in their child for the day in an emergency.

But recently it has begun to backfire. I just hired a really bright human resources officer who tells me (and the rest of the staff) that I am not family friendly at all because I expect her to stay late some nights.

She already gets in after 9am, and I have moved early morning meetings later to accommodate her school drop off. But our day does not end on the dot of 5pm. She is paid top dollar and I don’t think my expectations are over the top.

How can I find out what other companies offer? Because either I am out of step with the times or I am being taken for a ride.

Josh F,
Richmond, Victoria



Dear Josh,

Now calm down. You are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Your approach to family flexibility is not backfiring. In fact you say you have a great reputation for offering this flexibility, so I am sure your approach has benefits for your staff and your company.


Unfortunately Ms HR is taking you for a ride. But that should not change your approach to all staff. Deal with her individually. Can she nominate several days a week when she can work later? Does she understand clearly the nature of the job and the work it entails? Did you spell out to her when you recruited her that it was a top management role in the company and you expect her to be very committed? Does she have a very clear job description in writing?


I would be careful about legal issues, so keep meetings documented and ask for advice if things don’t work out and you have to move her on.


As for what do other companies offer… Most good companies try to offer a flexible workplace and bosses are happy to be even more flexible to keep skilled, valuable employees.


A recent study by Sensis that looked at the views, experience and performance of 1800 small and medium businesses (with up to 200 employees) shows that flexible start and finish times were offered by 73% of the SMEs, and 30% of businesses let staff work from home.


There were some concerns that flexible provisions resulted in the loss of productive time and increased costs. While 42% felt there were no drawbacks, 23% felt they faced a major barrier (increased costs), 12% felt there was a loss of productive time, and 12% felt it was inconvenient on other staff. Only 4% felt that staff abused their conditions.


Of course it is easier for some businesses at different times to offer more benefits, but here is what the businesses in the Sensis report offered their employees (listed in order of the percentage that offered them):


  • Phone for family reasons; 87%.
  • Flexible annual leave; 83%.
  • Flexible start and finish times; 73%.
  • Part time work; 61%.
  • Ability to bring children into work in an emergency; 60%.
  • Unpaid emergency leave for casual employees; 51%.
  • Carer’s leave for caring for family (other than children); 47%.
  • Unpaid parental leave; 44%.
    Ability to bring elders to work in an emergency; 44%.
  • Carer’s leave for caring for children; 42%.
  • Job sharing; 40%.
  • Ability to purchase additional leave; 31%.
  • Working from home; 30%.
  • Unpaid adoption leave; 22%.
  • Paid parental leave; 19%.
  • Onsite child care; 5%.
  • Subsidy for child care; 5%.
  • Subsidy for elderly care; 2%.



Good luck,

Your Aunty B



Aunty B - Your problems answered by SmartCompany's business bitch
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