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Have your say on work-life balance

Have your say on work-life balance

The Government's work-life balance project has begun public consultation on an issue that touches all New Zealanders lives.

Labour Minister Margaret Wilson said the aim is to gather the ideas and views of as many New Zealanders as possible about work-life balance.

Margaret Wilson said the project is not just about looking at the pressures faced by individuals. "New Zealand is facing skill shortages across all sectors of the economy. Businesses need to attract and retain the best people. Quality of life is a point of international difference we can't afford to overlook."

"We will look at what people have to say and work with key organisations towards developing some practical ways to ease pressure while boosting productivity. These solutions cannot be pre-judged - already it is clear the issues are broad and a one-size-fits-all approach is not realistic.”

Over the last six months a steering group led by the Department of Labour has been talking to different groups round the country and has set up a website www.worklife.govt.nz. The group’s case studies indicate that some of the benefits of work-life balance policies are improved recruitment and retention rates with the associated cost savings, reduced absenteeism and sick leave usage, and improved productivity.

Employers see work-life balance initiatives as a way of retaining and attracting quality staff, particularly in the current labour market. However they often do not have the time, resources or expertise to implement them.

Employees say the demands of their jobs can contribute to work-life imbalances, but there are many other factors outside the workplace that come into play. Unsurprisingly, childcare is a major issue. Less talked about are the concerns New Zealanders have about caring for aging parents.

“We started this work because there is growing local and international research suggesting that people from all walks of life experience real difficulties balancing their work, family and other commitments. Many people do not take action until there is a crisis.

“The Work-Life Balance project is not about government telling people how to run their lives. It is about asking how individuals, companies and organisations see the issue, what currently works for them, and what else could be done to improve things.

“I am encouraged with the response to the project so far. We have received some excellent examples of companies embracing work-life balance practices and enjoying the business benefits as a result. We have also heard from individuals who provide day-to-day examples of the issues they face and how they are tackling them. “For government to be able to look at what practical things can be done to support and extend good employment practice, we need as much information as possible about just what it is that matters to people. “We need the views and ideas of a wide audience, from small business people trying to juggle their time with just a few staff, people in rural areas, where home is often their workplace, the experience of older workers, and young people just setting out on their working lives. Everyone will have a view on this and everyone’s story is valuable to the debate. “ Margaret Wilson said that there were also lessons to be learnt from some of the bigger companies who have workplace practices in place that others can model. “It is not always about big, formal options. We are hearing examples of low cost – even no cost – ideas that provide good returns for businesses and individuals.” About 25 groups are actively involved with the project including Business New Zealand, the New Zealand School Trustees Association, the EEO Trust and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and the Maori Women's Welfare League.

To get the public consultation off the ground, 5000 discussion packs containing 12 information sheets targeted at different audiences will be distributed to these partner organisations for circulation through their memberships. The packs contain response forms for organisations and individuals to register their ideas.

The discussion packs will be available through Citizens Advice Bureaux and on the project website www.worklife.govt.nz. Individuals can have their say online or by writing in to the project.

The launch of the consultation campaign also coincides with EEO Trust’s latest online survey which is about the impact work commitments have on relationships.

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