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Making Fair Work FlexWork

The pandemic has disrupted work patterns and worker expectations across Australia. Our systems need to evolve and employers need to adapt.

The employee value proposition is fundamentally changing. Pay remains important but employees are placing a higher value on their work-life balance and wellbeing which flexibility fosters. The challenge for employers is to really engage with their people and understand what matters to them.

Industrial relations laws aren’t designed to support the extent of flexibility employees are demanding. To add to the challenge, our research indicates compliance risks for employers who aren’t tracking the work patterns of employees working flexibly.

Implications are emerging for the labour market experiencing labour shortages as a flex divide emerges between workers able to access flexibility in when and where they work compared with onsite workers who are constrained in their options and must report to a workplace often in accordance with a schedule different to what they would choose.

Employers have an opportunity to enhance productivity and win the war for talent if they engage with their workforce and co-design new ways of working with their employees.

Reimagining work

Key findings:

  • 2021 saw a surge in Australian workers mobility as a third of workers benefited from the rebound in the economy to change job. Most workers cited better opportunities (61% of onsite workers, 70% of flexible location workers) as the main reason for changing jobs.
  • People are accessing more flexibility than ever, but also working longer and less ‘standard’ hours.
  • One in three workers are working more hours since the pandemic and more than half workers are working outside their standard hours each week.
  • Almost a quarter of flexible location workers are working outside of standard hours every day. Worryingly, 28 per cent of them said they weren’t compensated for working these non-standard hours through overtime, time off in lieu, or through a salary agreement.
  • Workload is the lead reason for working early mornings or late into the evening. However, some workers are choosing to work during these times, which indicates that they are doing life activities during the day – going to the gym, caring responsibilities – and realising the work-life balance benefits of flexwork.

Key findings:

  • Many Australians are working more hours and feeling more burnt out than pre-pandemic.
  • The employee value proposition is changing and so is the relative importance of pay compared with other less easily quantified elements work conditions such as work-life balance and wellbeing. ‘Flexwork’ is a key enabler of wellbeing through better work-life balance. Having choice about both where and when we work is not just a nice-to-have: it has become a must-have.
  • Four in five flexible location workers (78%) want home to be their work location at least some of the time.
  • A significant number of onsite workers also want choice in their location of work.More than 90 per cent of workers say their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing is just as important as pay.
  • Nearly two in three workers would forgo a pay rise to lock-in flexible working, with one in five saying they’d forgo between six and 10 per cent.

Key findings:

  • The full benefits of flexible work may not be realised unless it is formalised in workplace policies, employee contracts or enterprise agreements. A failure to formalise policy also presents wage compliance and health and safety risks. Though a third of flexible location workers still work for employers who do not have a remote working policy or are not aware that one exists.
  • While the shift in employees’ expectations is crystalising and employees are walking with their feet, employers are still struggling to implement frameworks that deliver flexibility and clearly comply with workplace obligations. As we return to the workplace without restrictions and post-vaccine, more and more workers will be weighing up their employer’s value proposition around flexibility but also other human factors such as wellbeing, culture, autonomy, purpose, and leadership.
  • Workers covered by enterprise agreements tailored to the workplace, are more likely to have choice and flexibility about their work location and hours. They are also more likely to be working non-standard hours, and are more likely to forgo a percentage of their pay to achieve flexibility. This suggest that enterprise agreements, though at an all time low and covering just over a third of employees (35%) are more likely to deliver flexibility at work.

Explore more of our work

Deloitte and Swinburne Edge continue to collaborate on important insights emerging from our ongoing analysis of Australian workers’ views and experiences of flexible work.

Our sector insights briefings provide an overview of key sector related insights emerging from our analysis.

Our domain insights reports explore emerging trends with relation to flexible work and provide practical guidance to organisations in navigating them.

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