114 New Concepts in Commerce
Many changes in work patterns today are driven by
the desire of businesses to reduce labour costs and
improve productivity. Some changes include:
a preference in many businesses to hire casual sõ
employees as a flexible workforce to meet
demand at peak times
flexible working hours and arrangements, sõ
The number of women in the workplace has
risen rapidly in recent decades — women now
comprise 45 per cent of the workforce and have a
participation rate of 70 per cent.
Employers are recognising the cost savings and
benefits of ‘family friendly’ workplace practices in
order to motivate and retain skilled staff.
The Australian workforce is ageing, and health
and superannuation costs related to age will increase,
requiring employees to plan for these future
expenses. Consequently, the federal government is
recommending that employees consider extending
their working life rather than retiring early.
Casualisation of the
One of the most important changes to work patterns
in the last 20 years has been the significant increase
in casual employment. Casual workers currently
make up approximately 25 per cent of the labour
force, with some industry sectors — such as retail
and hospitality — employing almost half their labour
force as casuals.
Some casual employees, especially the young,
find it difficult to gain full-time employment. Their
working life is often dominated by periods of part-
time and casual work. Consequently, they have
few opportunities for promotion and are usually
retrenched first if the business is experiencing
financial difficulties. These people will sometimes
experience long periods of unemployment.
Exploitation of these employees can also occur.
A high proportion of casual workers are 15–24 years old.
Flexible working conditions
Flexible working conditions are patterns of work
that allow employees to balance work and family
responsibilities more effectively. For example, some
employer–employee agreements allow opportunities
for home-based work, which gives employees
more flexibility during working hours. This is
becoming more practical as electronic methods of
communication and other technologies improve.
Many businesses also offer permanent part-time
work in order to retain skilled and valued staff who
have family commitments.
Flexible working hours are a common feature in
many workplaces and may take the form of:
flexitimesõ , which allows employees to nominate
starting and finishing times to suit their needs
maxiflexsõ , which allows employees to build up
sufficient hours or overtime to take time off
job sharingsõ , which allows two employees to share
the hours required for one job.
Conflicting views are emerging from employees
(other than those who choose part-time work) about
the benefits achieved from flexible working hours
and permanent part-time work. Many employees
now work 12-hour shifts, broken by...