Part-time goose chase

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In a blog post earlier this year entitled “Getting so frustrated”, Hassanah Rudd lamented the difficulty of procuring professional part-time work in New Zealand. And it seems, anecdotally, that this isn’t an uncommon situation here.

“It’s very hard to find part-time work, there is no part-time work,” Dominique Sutherland, a marketing and communications professional, told HRM Online. Sutherland thinks that employers are reluctant to hire part-time staff due to a belief that, in their absence, they will delay work. “But what they don’t realise is that so much stuff can be done from home,” she argued.

Zoe Mounsey, a change management and internal communications specialist, has also noticed this scarcity. “I would say I’ve not seen many part-time jobs advertised in my field and at the kind of level I’d be working…I think the demand is there, but there’s a lack of supply,” she said. She’s received advice to look for contract work in order to negotiate the days and hours that she works.

In the UK, the predicament of women like Sutherland and Mounsey led Karen Mattison to launch Timewise, an organisation which helps experienced professionals find part-time work that fits in with their life, without forcing them to take a backwards step in their career. “Part-time and flexible hours are not a luxury – but a necessity – for the vast majority of women with young children in the UK. And this is what’s causing women to hit a wall, in terms of career progression,” Mattison wrote in a Daily Telegraph opinion piece.

While there doesn’t appear to be an exact equivalent in New Zealand, one recruitment agency, Careering Options, specialises in offering candidates flexible work through contracting. The agency was established more than 20 years ago to help women who had taken time out to raise a family to reengage with the workforce. It has been very successful in Wellington, according to managing director Jenny Trafford, in part due to the public sector’s commitment to equal employment opportunities and flexible ways of working.

“It has given employers access to a flexible workforce, and a highly skilled workforce; employers can bring on people with particular expertise for a particular project…[and] if they get someone who’s highly skilled, they can get a lot done in that time,” Trafford said.

“Given that we’re in the time of a talent shortage, those organisations and employers who embrace this will have access to a broader range of talent,” she added.

For Sutherland and Mounsey, the benefits of offering flexible work are numerous, for example acquiring staff with a strong sense of loyalty, high engagement, and the tendency to stay longer in the job. “Because part-time jobs are so hard to come by, you’re really dedicated…when you find one, you know you’re really lucky and you don’t want to leave that,” Sutherland explained.

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