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Dramatic changes have been thrust upon the way we live and work.
The initial feeling of crisis and temporary work in response to the global pandemic has evolved: we have adapted to, and refined, working from home, pivoted business models, even identified new opportunities.
Many of us continue to work from kitchen benches and home offices, pushing the boundaries of remote and flexible work. At the initial peak of COVID-19, 95% of Deloitte’s workforce was working from home.
COVID-19 accelerated evolution in what is possible about how, when and where we work. Many of us do not wish to return to ‘the old way’: a hybrid model of work from home and the traditional workplace has wide appeal.
We were already on this path. Those of us whose tool of the trade is a laptop were already balancing work from different locations: it suited some to work outside of ‘business hours’ – so that we can have dinner with friends, go to that gym class or put the children to bed. And vanquish that long commute.
As Chair of the Victorian On-Demand workforce, I heard how highly valued this flexibility and autonomy is to workers. This was universal, whether delivering food, working via a laptop or going into homes to support care recipients or do one-off tasks.
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recognised the need to adapt to the realities of COVID-19. It reduced inflexibilities in some awards around hours of work to accommodate changed work practices.
Justice Ross has proposed potentially broadening flexibilities to address the ongoing effects of the pandemic. The government wants to reduce rigid rules around part-time workers’ modifying hours with the agreement. The system is adapting at lightning speed targeting specific barriers to more flexible work.
But have expectations outstripped what our system can deliver? Can our longstanding workplace relations system truly evolve, as opposed to merely react?
At its heart, our venerable industrial relations framework pays for time worked. It attributes value based on when work is done, as opposed to outcomes, with complex differential pay rates triggered by a range of mostly time-based factors. But clocking on and off for each ‘work session’ feels counter-cultural for many, especially where work may be self-directed.
So, how do we meet the changing expectations about how and when our employees work, while also demonstrating that we are meeting these complex and variable requirements?
Data can help. A data-led approach gives insight about work patterns and labour spend. It can help balance your time-based pay obligations with delivering the flexibility to our workforce and our customers.
Data-driven insights provide reassurance that salaries or payroll processing match your obligations, even if employees haven’t been ‘keeping time’. Data helps you optimise scheduling and employee preferences. Harness the power of data to support new, fit-for-future employment frameworks that support your business in a COVID impacted the world. The choice is yours, and we can help.
Natalie James is a Partner in Deloitte’s Regulatory and Risk Insights practice. She leads Deloitte’s Workplace Integrity Team working with businesses to enhance their workplace integrity and ensure compliance with work laws. She brings deep expertise and insight to helping companies identify and resolve compliance risks, reduce complexity and build fit for purpose, compliant and sustainable workplace practices. Natalie was the Fair Work Ombudsman, leading Australia’s national workplace relations regulator, from July 2013 to July 2018. Prior to that she led the development of work laws as Chief Counsel for the Commonwealth Government. Natalie has a Bachelor of Arts Law and a Masters in Law (Commercial – Labour Law).
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