Work-Life Balance Project : WORK-LIFE BALANCE IN NEW ZEALAND

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Dr. Lindy Fursman
Work-Life Balance Project
Department of Labour
Disclaimer: The Department of Labour has made every effort to ensure that the information
contained in this report is reliable, but makes no guarantee of its accuracy or completeness, and
does not accept any liability for any errors. The Department may change the contents of this
report at any time without notice.
© Crown copyright 2006
The material is subject to Crown copyright protection and may be reproduced free of charge
without requiring specific permission. This is subject to the material being reproduced accurately
and not being used in a derogatory or misleading manner. The source must be acknowledged.
Department of Labour
PO Box 3705
Wellington
New Zealand

www.dol.govt.nz
ISBN 0-478-28056-4

WORK-LIFE BALANCE
IN NEW ZEALAND
A snapshot of employee and employer
attitudes and experiences

FOREWORD
In recent years, employers, unions, policy makers and researchers have all tried to identify
ways that might better assist New Zealanders to balance paid work with the other aspects
of their lives such as study, leisure, and caring for others. In 2004, the Work-Life Balance
Project team at the Department of Labour conducted a public consultation to explore
New Zealander’s views on work-life balance, and to gain a clearer picture of the barriers
preventing people from achieving the balance they want. Workers and families told us that
the need to earn enough income, the presence of caring responsibilities, and the culture
and practices in their workplaces all made it hard to have a balanced life.
In August 2005, I announced a programme of work focused on enhancing workplace cultures
and practices. We are now working with a small group of carefully selected workplaces to
design and trial solutions to common work-life balance problems faced by New Zealanders.
The research described in this report was undertaken to provide a more comprehensive
picture of our working arrangements, as a perfect complement to these workplace trials
– a nationally representative picture of what our work is like, and what it is about work and
other key aspects of our lives that affects work-life balance.
Work-life balance is different for everyone. As this report shows, for some it may mean
more work, for others less. There are many organisations who are exploring work-life
arrangements, and these employers know that assisting their staff to have a better
balance will help their business to increase productivity, address skill shortages and retain
staff. Similarly, job satisfaction can increase the quality of home life interactions, a benefit
supported by recent research by the Ministry of Social Development .
This publication gives us a nationally representative picture of what is happening in New
Zealanders’ working lives that impacts on their ability to achieve work-life balance. It
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also points to some very simple and effective solutions that are working now and, more
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importantly, clear strategies that might make a difference. This research will provide us
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with a starting point so we can measure our progress in future. It provides a baseline

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for assessing the impact of a range of initiatives the Government has in place to assist
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employees and employers, such as the introduction in 2007 of a minimum entitlement to
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four weeks’ paid annual leave. The Government is also working closely with workplace leaders
to identify the best way forward for ensuring New Zealanders’ access to quality flexible
work arrangements. We are providing both information and resources to make it easy
for employers to implement good practices and will continue to assess the best ways of
achieving high quality flexible work practices. In the future, I expect we will see the impact
of initiatives such as these.
This report sits alongside and complements other research being carried out across
government, and by other organisations, including the recently released EEO Trust’s Work
and Age Survey and the Ministry of Social Development’s Work, Family and Parenting
Study (2006).
I am heartened to learn through this report that the majority of employers do not see
barriers impeding their ability to improve flexibility. In support of that, employees report
a very real understanding of the business imperatives facing their organisations. It would
appear that the time has never been better for both employers and employees to engage
in addressing this issue, for improving work-life balance is critical to increasing both our
quality of life and our living standards. This report gives us new information that enables
us to better understand what we need to do to take the next steps. It is up to all of us to
take those steps.
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HON. RUTH DYSON Minister of Labour
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July 2006


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TABLE OF CONTENTS
ExECUTIvE SUmmARY .................................................................................................................................................................................... 6
INTRODUCTION: THE NATIONAL WORK-LIFE BALANCE SURvEYS OF EmPLOYERS AND EmPLOYEES ...................................... 8
An Overview: HOw And wHen we wOrk, And Our cAring respOnsibilities .................. 10
OUR WORKINg ARRANgEmENTS…............................................................................................................................................................ 10

How many hours? How many jobs? .............................................................................................................................................................10

How many work varying hours or shifts? How many work at night? ..........................................................................................11

Working extra hours in own time................................................................................................................................................................12

Preferences to work more or less ............................................................................................................................................................12
HOmE LIFE ........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 12

Household type and care responsibilities ..............................................................................................................................................12
HOw dO we fAre On tHe wOrk-life bAlAnce frOnt? .......................................................... 14
wHAt mAkes wOrk-life bAlAnce HArder tO AcHieve?....................................................... 16
WORKPLACE FACTORS ................................................................................................................................................................................. 16

Work-life balance and hours worked ........................................................................................................................................................16

Work-life balance and shift work ...............................................................................................................................................................17

Work-life balance and working at night ...................................................................................................................................................17

Work-life balance and working extra hours in own time .................................................................................................................17

Specific working arrangements that make work-life balance harder to achieve .............................................................. 18

How much an impact does work have? ...................................................................................................................................................20
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Industry and occupation – do they make a difference? .................................................................................................................. 22
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HOmE-LIFE FACTORS....................................................................................................................................................................................24

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What factors about home influence work-life blance? ................................................................................................................... 24


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How does home life impact on work? .......................................................................................................................................................25
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wOrk-life bAlAnce initiAtives we HAve Access tO, And HOw tHese Help ................... 27
WHAT EmPLOYERS OFFER… ....................................................................................................................................................................... 27

Differences by industry ................................................................................................................................................................................30

Differences by business size .......................................................................................................................................................................32

Groupings of work-life balance options .................................................................................................................................................33

Employer barriers to implementing work-life initiatives ................................................................................................................34
…AND WHAT EmPLOYEES USE. ..................................................................................................................................................................35

What initiatives do employees use? .........................................................................................................................................................35

Which arrangements are the most helpful? .........................................................................................................................................37

How helpful are these arrangements? ....................................................................................................................................................37
THE ImPACT OF WORKPLACE CULTURE. ..................................................................................................................................................38
wHAt else dO new ZeAlAnd wOrkers wAnt? ....................................................................... 40
wOrk-life bAlAnce And cAre: issues fOr fAmilies ........................................................... 42
wOrk-life bAlAnce fOr mAOri ................................................................................................. 44
cOnclusiOns And next steps .................................................................................................. 47
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ExECUTIvE SUmmARY
This report provides a snapshot of
our paid working lives, our lives and
responsibilities outside work and how

It shows that 40% of workers have variable
hours, 18% work shifts, and about one in four
we balance the two.
work at least some of their hours between 10pm
and 6am.
It summarises the key findings of two national
The findings indicate that more than a third of
surveys, one of 1100 employers, and the other
workers work extra hours in their own time every
of 2000 employees. Employers were asked
week in order to get their jobs done. However,
about the work-life initiatives they offered
two-thirds of workers are satisfied with the
their staff, and about their attitudes towards
hours they work, while 28% would prefer to work
such working arrangements. These findings are
less even if it means earning less.
reported mostly in the section Work-life balance
intiatives we have access to, and how these help
.
When it comes to responsibilities outside of
Employees answered questions about their own
work, 43% of employees say they are responsible
work-life balance, their working arrangements,
for the care of someone such as a child or an
and their responsibilities and activities outside
elderly relative.
of work. The results of both surveys have been
When it came to rating work-life balance, more
weighted to provide a nationally representative
than half of respondents reported good, very
picture, but a low response rate in both surveys
good or excellent work-life balance, with the
(23% in the employer survey and 17% in the
average rating falling between “OK” and “Good”.
employee survey) means that the results should
However, 40% of respondents indicated that
be treated as indicative, rather than conclusive.
they have some or a lot of difficulty getting the
For example, it is possible that people working
balance they want.
excessively long hours or with poor work-life
balance may have been disproportionately
When work-life balance ratings and the level
unavailable or unwilling to participate in the
of difficulty achieving work-life balance are
survey of employees, which would result in
combined into an overall measure, just over half
an under-representation of this group in the
of people experience work-life balance (54%).
findings. A more detailed discussion on this is
What makes work-life balance harder to achieve?
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available in Appendix 1: Methodology, available
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Employees report that long working hours, varied
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from the Department of Labour’s Work-Life
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hours and rotating shift work impact negatively
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Balance website www.dol.govt.nz/worklife or

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on their work-life balance. Those working up to


contact centre 0800 20 90 20.
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40-49 hours a week are more likely to experience
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Half of workers responding to the survey work
work-life balance than work-life conflict.

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40-49 hours a week. But almost 20% work longer
However, work-life conflict is more likely when
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hours - with 14% working 50-59 hours a week,
employees work 50 or more hours. When hours

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and 5% working more than 60 hours a week.
are worked also makes a difference, especially
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when they are worked at night. Frequently
harder to achieve, particularly the expectations
working extra hours in your own time also
of colleagues, workmates, managers and
makes work-life conflict worse, as does having
supervisors.
responsibility for the care of others.
What else do we want? New Zealand workers
For many employees, work makes it hard to
want flexible start and finish times, and more
participate fully in family life. For 41% of workers,
leave – both paid and unpaid. They also want more
work sometimes or often makes it difficult to
choice about the way they work, both in terms
enjoy or spend quality time with family, and 46%
of having more input into rosters and shifts, and
sometimes or often find it hard to get home
choosing the number of hours they work. Carers
on time.
also want to be able to use their leave in smaller
and larger blocks. Maori employees would also
There are occupational differences in work-life
like more choice about their hours and when they
balance ratings, with teachers, nurses, police and
work them.
other trained service workers having the most
difficulty achieving the right balance.
What initiatives are being used to help employees
balance their work with other parts of their
lives? Commonly available work-life initiatives
include being able to occasionally vary start
and finish times to cope with a problem, using
personal sick leave to care for others, having
flexible break provisions, and study leave. Least
commonly available initiatives include working
from home, flexibility in choosing hours, rosters
or shifts, and having additional leave in exchange
for less pay. Available initiatives differ by industry
and size of employer, and many initiatives are
most likely to be offered to senior staff or
management.
The most helpful initiative for employees is having
flexible start and finish times.
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For 44% of employees, the work-life initiatives
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available to them “help a lot”.

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However, workplace initiatives are not the only
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solution, with workplace culture also weighing
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in as a key factor in employees’ work-life
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balance. Almost 60% of employees reported

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that there were significant aspects of their
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workplace culture that made work-life balance

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INTRODUCTION:
THE NATIONAL WORK-LIFE BALANCE SURvEYS
OF EmPLOYERS AND EmPLOYEES
This report looks at the way New
Zealanders balance their home and

2. How we fare on the work-life balance front
working lives, and their attitudes and
those of their employers to the issue

3. What makes our work-life balance harder/
easier
of work-life balance.
4. The work-life initiatives we have access to,
and how these help
It provides comprehensive information about
5. Other working arrangements New Zealand
how we work, our lives outside of work, and how
workers want.
we strike a balance between home and work
commitments. It also examines attitudes to
This report was prepared as part of the Work-
work-life balance initiatives and explores barriers
Life Balance Project set up by the Government
to achieving work-life balance.
in August 2003. The Work-Life Balance Project
aims to promote a better balance between paid
Increasingly, work-life balance initiatives are seen
work and other aspects of life, through the
as an option for organisations wanting to attract development of policies and practices.
and retain good skilled staff, and for employees
wanting to lead healthier, more satisfying lives.
The report summarises the results of two
The increased interest in these initiatives has
surveys, one involving employers and the other
been driven, in part, by labour and skill shortages,
employees, that were conducted by Research
and low unemployment, which have given many
New Zealand (formerly BRC Marketing and Social
workers a stronger negotiating position. In
Research) in 2005. BRC also conducted much
addition, there are increasing numbers of women
of the analysis and produced a number of the
with young children in paid work, and more dual
figures and tables included in this report.
job/career couples, which may allow some fathers
more options in terms of their own work-life
The surveys had four key objectives:
balance.
• To gather information about which work-life
But what initiatives and working arrangements
initiatives New Zealand workers have access
do people already have that help and/or hinder
to, and how useful these are
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their ability to achieve balance? And how do these
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• To assess which employees have access to
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relate to the out-of-work responsibilities people
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work-life initiatives
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also manage on a daily and weekly basis?

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• To gather information about employer and
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This report provides that information, and is
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employee attitudes to work-life initiatives
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organised into five main sections:

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• To gather information about barriers to

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1. What our work looks like, and who we are
achieving work-life balance, from both

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responsible for at home
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employer and employee perspectives.
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The employer survey involved 1100 employers
and was conducted in July 2005. The employee
survey involved 2000 employed people and was
conducted in October/November 2005. The
sample populations for the two surveys were not
linked due to issues of confidentiality; however,
the results of each were weighted to produce a
nationally representative picture. Unfortunately,
a low response rate (17%) in the employee
survey suggests the results should be treated as
broadly indicative rather than conclusive
. In part,
this is due to potential bias in who responded
to the survey. It is not unlikely that people with
excessively long working hours or the most
severe work-life conflict (and thus, the least
amount of spare time) might have been less likely
or available to take part in the survey and thus
would be under-represented in the responses
reported here. (See discussion in Appendix 1:
Methodology
available from the Department of
Labour’s Work-Life Balance website
www.dol.govt.nz/worklife or contact centre
0800 20 90 20.)
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