24 September 2012

nine to fiveMany Australian workers are feeling the pressure of work-life strain, but are unaware of recent government reforms that could help – like the right to request (RTR) flexibility which is available to parents of pre-schoolers and those with a child under 18 with a disability.

 Higher volumes of work, and increasing pressure to perform at high speed, to tight deadlines, are commonplace experiences among a third of the workforce who responded to the latest Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) survey.

The introduction of paid parental leave and the right to request (RTR) flexible working arrangements from employers are reforms introduced by the Australian Government, aimed at enabling workers to better reconcile work and care. The survey shows that these arrangements make a positive difference for those who use them.

However, many workers are unaware of their eligibility to request flexibility: of the 2500 employees surveyed, only 30% were aware of the RTR. This may explain why the rate of request making for flexibility has not changed much since the RTR was introduced just over two years ago.

The University of South Australia’s Centre for Work + Life, details these findings from the AWALI survey in its report: The Big Squeeze: Work, home and care in 2012.

The report shows that employees who experience high levels of work intensification are at greater risk of negative work-life interference.

It suggests possible remedies to work-life pressures, including better management of workloads, wider knowledge of the RTR and more support for men to make requests.

Co-author of the report, Centre Director Professor Barbara Pocock highlights the fact that carers of the aged or those with disabilities have the same levels of work-life interference as parents of young children, and would benefit from RTR.

 “They would benefit from more access to flexibility, especially in an aging population,” Professor Pocock says.

The report advocates that changes to workplace cultures and practices and wider publicity to managers and leaders about the benefits of working flexibility could encourage more workers who are eligible to take up RTR.

“Two years after its introduction, the existing RTR is not yet working as a climate shifter,” Professor Pocock adds.

“As occurred before the formal RTR was introduced, around a fifth of workers request flexibility. Most of them are women and mothers, and most get what they ask for, with positive effects on their work-life circumstances. The challenge is changing workplaces where flexibility is uncommon, especially where standard working arrangements are dominant.

“Improving things will require basic knowledge of rights to request, and workers’ confidence that their request will be treated seriously and not result in negative consequences.”

The report can be downloaded here

Contact for interview:

Barbara Pocock office 8302 4194 mobile 0414 244 606 email Barbara.Pocock@unisa.edu.au

Media contact: Will Venn office 8302 0965 email Will.Venn@unisa.edu.au

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