NZ public service trials flexible work policy, on the rise in APS

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday November 29, 2019


Almost half of the New Zealand Public Service has signed up to a flexible work program designed to reduce the gender pay gap, while flexible work is on the rise in the Australian Public Service.

The pilot scheme was announced by Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter in December, and is currently being trialled by 15 of NZ’s 32 departments, according to

As part of the government’s Gender Pay Action Plan, employees have the chance to embrace more flexible work, and their bosses must let them unless they have a valid reason not to. Options could include changing work hours, easing back into work after parental leave, working from home, or purchasing annual leave. 

The initial trial involved seven agencies, including the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Ministry for Women, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry for Social Development, Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand Customs Service, and New Zealand Police. The policy is planned to be rolled out across departments by the end of 2020.

State Services commissioner Peter Hughes told Stuff research showed flexible work helped to retain skilled staff, reduce recruitment costs, and lower absenteeism. However, he argued that not all roles would be suited to the program.

“A proactive approach to flexible working is being championed by progressive leaders in both the public and private sectors because it can benefit everyone: employers, employees, their families, and communities,” he said.

This correlates with similar research in Australia. Surveys conducted by the Community and Public Sector Union have shown women want more flexible work arrangements. The union has used this data to help improve work arrangements for executive level staff, and reject proposals to increase working hours.

Similarly, the CPSU has found workers in the ACT’s public prosecution office have been resigning due to the lack of flexible work. Despite this, flexible work arrangements in the APS are actually on the rise.

According to the latest State of the Service Report, 2019 APS employee census data shows more females are taking advantage of flexible working arrangements than males. The arrangements could include changes to work locations, hours or patterns of work. However, both men and women accessing flexible work have increased since the APS Gender Equality Strategy was introduced.

The survey also found that 52% of respondents currently access flexible work arrangements, while 83% of respondents indicated their supervisor supports the use of flexible arrangements by all staff.

The value of flexible work to both the employee and the employer has been increasingly and widely recognised across the APS, the report said.

“Flexible work practices are another way to allow APS agencies to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing work environment, and support mobility and inclusivity,” it reads. “Flexible work also allows the APS to attract and retain capability as employees across multiple generations increasingly seek an enhanced work/life balance.”

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