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Opinion by Maja Garaca Djurdjevic - March 8, 2022

Women want flexible work arrangements and better pay

A hybrid home-workplace working model and real pay increases will be critical issues in bargaining and a key retention factor for women over the coming year.

The “What Women Want” survey, released by the Community and Public Sector Union on International Women’s Day, found that four in five women favour working from home in normal work hours, up from two-thirds in 2019.

According to the survey of 3,495 women, seven in 10 women said better working from home arrangements would make it more attractive to stay in their current role.

But a consequence of flexible work arrangements is the expectation of uncompensated hours. Namely, the research found that two-thirds (64.4 per cent) of women work additional hours, with over half (52.4 per cent) admitting they are not or are only sometimes compensated.

Commenting on the survey’s findings regarding work arrangement, CPSU national secretary Mellissa Donnelly said, “these issues are crucial to women’s working lives”.

“Working from home is becoming a standard employment condition. We’re seeing that employees will consider finding new employment if their agency does not allow them to work flexibly – and there are now more options available for them to do so,” Ms Donnelly said.

The survey also found women are now less satisfied with pay than they were in 2019.

Overall, satisfaction remains below 2013 levels, with the CPSU pinning the blame on the government’s approach to bargaining, coupled with pay freezes, increased workloads during the pandemic and the explosion in the use of contractors and consultants.

“Our members have identified an enormous range of issues that contribute to gender inequity and produce a workplace culture that fails to keep them safe. The problem is not that women are failing to propose solutions. The problem is that government and employers are failing to listen and act,” Ms Donnelly noted.

Sexual harassment still a key issue

But the research also exposed persistent shortcomings in the treatment of sexual harassment in the workplace, particularly across the public sector.

Only a quarter (26.3 per cent) of women who experienced sexual harassment over the past 12 months reported the incident, with only one in 10 (10 per cent) satisfied with the response.

The survey pinpointed a notable shift in perspectives about how well workplaces address sexual harassment since 2019.

Namely, only three in 10 (29.7 per cent) women agreed complaints regarding sexual harassment are dealt with quickly and appropriately by management, down from two in five (38.0 per cent) in 2019.

Moreover, a significantly larger proportion of women disagreed or strongly disagreed that there is adequate training on sexual harassment (41.1 per cent in 2021 versus 23.5 per cent in 2019).

“Empowering women to be engaged and involved in every step of the process is the only way to ensure workplaces develop effective systems that address gender equity and stamp out sexual harassment and gendered violence,” Ms Donnelly concluded.

This article originally featured in Investor Daily