Australia is on the brink of a welfare recession
The third implication for employers is that the full benefits of flexible working may not be realized unless it is formalized in workplace policies, employee contracts, or company agreements. The lack of formalization of the policy also presents risks in terms of compliance with wages and health and safety.
Not only are remote workers more likely to work more than a full-time week than their on-site counterparts, but nearly a quarter of them told us they work after-hours every day. . Worryingly, 28% of flexible workers said they were not compensated for these non-standard hours through overtime, compensatory time off or a wage agreement.
Although workload was the main reason for working early in the morning or late at night, it is encouraging to see that some workers are Choose work during these times. This indicates that some workers are performing life activities during the day – going to the gym, attending to responsibilities – and realizing the work-life balance benefits of flexible working.
Finally, we suspect that much of the work done outside working hours is not tracked or recorded by employers. Not only is there a risk to employee well-being – especially when coupled with longer hours overall – but it also suggests that many workers may be underpaid.
Australian labor relations laws were not created with flexible working in mind and do not distinguish why an employee may work non-standard hours. Employers are responsible for having systems that pay their employees properly. Deloitte’s experience with payroll consolidation suggests that underpayments are typically caused by employees not being paid for all hours worked.
Our research suggests that workers covered by an Enterprise Agreement (EA), tailored to the workplace, are more likely to have a choice of where and when they work, to be willing to give up a percentage of their salary to get this flexibility and to work for an employer with a formal remote work policy.
Business negotiation can be a laborious process and is in decline. But we need to get it right, and these survey results suggest that employers may need to reconsider the bargaining option to provide more flexibility to their employees while managing compliance risks.
Australian workers are at risk of burnout and demand better wellness outcomes.
Flexible working is the remedy that can be codified in employment contracts. Well-being cannot.
Nathalie James is a Deloitte Australia partner, leader of its workplace integrity practice, adjunct professor at Swinburne University of Technology and former Fair Work Ombudsman. Sean Gallagher is director of the Center for the New Workforce, Swinburne University of Technology.