Job sharing is becoming increasingly common in New Zealand as employers respond to employees' needs for different ways of working. These guidelines outline how to develop a job share arrangement so it works effectively for everyone.
Why offer job sharing?
When a job sharing programme is properly implemented and integrated into an organisation, it contributes significantly to staff recruitment and retention. In the 2007 Hudson survey, 79% of respondents saw a positive impact on attraction and retention as a result of job sharing.
What is job sharing?
In a job share, the tasks and responsibilities of a full-time position are shared by two people. Pay and leave entitlements are shared on a pro rata basis. The position remains a full-time position and can revert to being filled by one person. Job sharing can arise when:
- an employer chooses to advertise a vacancy as a job share, or
- an employee/employees request to have an existing full-time role changed to a job share. This might be an employee's own role or some other role within the organisation.
Job sharing is different from a job split that results in a full-time position being split into two separate part-time jobs with separate duties. It differs from part-time work where an employee is individually responsible for the work.
There are different ways to fill a job share role - employers may appoint people who have similar skills or may recruit people for their complementary skills.
What roles can be job shared?
Job sharing can be applied to most full-time roles, including those at senior levels, providing the role has been properly designed. It can be a very valuable option when used to retain senior staff with high replacement costs.
Job sharing is an attractive option for many different groups of workers including:
- Parents wanting to combine paid work with their parenting responsibilities
- Students combining paid work and study
- Older workers transitioning to retirement
Every role to be job shared should be carefully analysed to ensure that the most appropriate type of job share option is chosen.
Who benefits from job sharing?
- Increased staff retention
Job sharing enables employers to retain the skill and experience of parents.
Job sharing may encourage older workers to stay involved in paid work for longer.
- Gains from the pooling of experience
Additional skills can be gained for the price of one full-time salary. Different perspectives within the same job can create greater ability to problem solve and improve efficiency.
- Reduced absenteeism and greater continuity
Leave due to sickness is often lower among job sharers.
Job sharers are often able to cover each other's sick and annual leave.
- Improved performance and productivity
The fewer hours you work, the more intensely you can work.
- Potential to save on office space and equipment
Some job sharers may never overlap and therefore can share space and equipment. Even where partners do overlap, the investment in shared equipment may be outweighed by the benefits of having full coverage of a role.
- Maximise employee strengths
Job sharing offers employers an opportunity to tap into the complementary strengths and weaknesses of the partners by defining their duties so they play to the strengths of each. Job sharing can also be used as a career development opportunity to address areas of inexperience.
- An opportunity to offer broader hours of operation
- Increased discretionary effort
As with other types of flexible work arrangements, job sharers tend to repay their employer with discretionary effort.
- Provides a suitable alternative for monotonous work, perhaps resulting in lower or delayed turnover.
- Parents are able to maintain their career position - this makes job sharing a particularly attractive option for professional women
- Employees do not lose any of their benefits
- Flexibility and improved work-life balance
Tips to make it work
- Ensure that there is top level support for the job share
Management support is critical to success of a job share. All managers need to understand the benefits to the organisation of the arrangement.
- Treat job sharing teams as single employees
By treating teams as single employees and rewarding their collective effectiveness, each partner is likely to hold themselves accountable for the partnership.
- Develop a well thought out job share plan
Include details of how the job share will benefit the organisation as well as clear information about the job share arrangement. Develop a comprehensive job description, communication plan and contingency plan.
- Develop an effective communication programme
Spell out how relationships will work between the job sharers, their managers, co-workers and customers. Emphasise that from the stakeholder's perspective the process will be seamless. Cover off how the job sharers will communicate between themselves and with their clients. Advise stakeholders if the job share is being introduced for a trial period, letting them know if they will be invited to contribute to the review process at the end of the trial.
- Plan the transition
Involve stakeholders before the job share commences and use the job share partners to brainstorm potential issues.
- Decide how the parties will communicate
This may include a handover period with both job sharers present so they can meet to review work in progress. Job sharing can also work well when the two job sharers do not meet in person but they need to be creative about how they keep in touch. Options include:
- Using a common notebook to record work in progress and tasks completed
- Scheduling time to telephone each other to "hand over" from one partner to the other as appropriate
- Providing a shared email address and/or voice mailbox as appropriate
- Copying relevent emails to the other partner
- Define the duties
Job sharers need to be clear about their responsibilities. It can help to include a copy of the job description in the job share contract. Be sure to identify any situations where projects are to be assigned to individual partners rather than shared. Duties can be redefined as part of the review process (see below).
- Establish guidelines for and with the job share partners
This helps to set the expectations for everyone. These can include:
- Division of duties
- Areas of responsibility
- Work practices
- Coverage at peak times and relief arrangements
- Handover arrangements between the job sharers
- Communication processes with other staff
- Access to training and development
- Performance evaluations for each job sharer
- What happens if one job sharer leaves
- Trial and review period
It can be helpful to everyone if a job share arrangement is reviewed after an agreed trial period but it is important that all parties are know from the outset what criteria they will be evaluated on. Group discussions involving the job sharers and the wider team can be an excellent way of finding out how the job share is working before the arrangement is made final.
- Terms and conditions
It is important that the parties know if the job share will be for a fixed term or run indefinitely. The circumstances under which a job share can be terminated should be spelled out, including:
- Who has the right to a full-time position should the job share not work out?
- What happens if one partner wants to opt out?
- What happens if operational requirements are not being met?
The Job Share Guidebook for Employees and Supervisors (This resource offers practical considerations on setting up a job share.)
Job Sharing - A practical guide. Pam Walton. (1990.) Great Britain: Kogan Page.
Job Sharing - Two heads are better than one. Mary O'Hanlon & Angela Morella. (2003.) NSW: Crows Nest.