Legal, Management, Managing people

Start-ups urged to be flexible with overworked staff

Oliver Milman /

Start-ups have been urged to introduce flexibility in the workplace after a major new study found that nearly half of Australian employees are not compensated for the overtime hours they work.


Trade union body the ACTU surveyed 42,000 Australian workers and found that 61% work more hours than they are paid for, with 47% of this number not rewarded for their extra effort.


A further seven in 10 employees are contacted about their job outside work hours, while 58% haven’t been properly reimbursed for work-related expenses.


“The census also found that a third of workers see senior management as having no real understanding of their business, and no plan for the future,” says Ged Kearney, president of the ACTU.


“This is a disturbing finding. It suggests also that company managements are often ignoring some of the most innovative and creative people in their organisation, people who could help create productivity solutions: the workers.”


Martin Nally, founder of consultancy HR Anywhere, says that start-ups need to be flexible to avoid disenchanting overworked staff.


“Flexibility is the new black when it comes to the workplace,” he says. “Fair Work Australia has a flexibility provision, so if staff have young children, they can have flexible arrangements.”


“But the best businesses don’t wait for legislation. They are already flexible. They realise the concept of ‘face time’, where you are judged on how long you’re in the office, is a fallacy.”


“It’s about outcomes, rather than being a clock watcher. Allow staff to work remotely or outside the standard nine to five hours.”


“If you have to ask staff to work overtime, fine, but give them time off during a quieter time for your business. If people feel inequality, they’ll leave. As soon as they have an opportunity, they’ll be off.”


Lisa Spiden, founder of Fibre HR, says that start-ups need to be careful when drawing up employment contracts for staff.


“When employers pay more than the award, they need to put a flexibility agreement in the contract,” she says. “Otherwise you will just pay a higher rate of overtime pay.”


“Never allow staff to work overtime and not pay them, if they’re on an award. Either pay them or allow them time off in lieu. Some employees like to work extra at the end of the day or during their lunchtime in order to get more money in their pocket. Don’t allow them to. You can instruct them to go home.”


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