“Working conditions such as parental and family leave entitlements, flexible hours and childcare are intended to contribute to more ‘family friendly’ workplaces.This paper will consider why this is necessary, union attitudes to the issues involved and how these matters are dealt with in our industrial relations system.”
In this paper, I would like to cover five issues which are encompassed within the broad heading of work and family responsibilities:
- A Changing Workforce And Society – which explains why we need a focus on work and family responsibilities at all.
- ACTU Policy On Workers With Family Responsibilities – which sets out the union movement’s response to that changing workforce.
- The Current Legislative Framework – and what is a new emphasis in that framework itself in dealing with work and family overlapping responsibilities.
- The Role Of Awards – in combining work and family issues across industries or occupations.
- The Role of Enterprise Agreements – which focus on how these matters are dealt with at the workplace level.
Australia’s workforce reflects the transformation that has occurred over recent times in society in general and the family in particular.
These changes can be seen in the statistics relating to labour force participation and changes in family formation.
- Women now represent over 42% of the labour force.
- In February 1994 there were over 3.7 million women in the labour force and of these almost 60% were married.
- 63% of all women of working age were in the labour force and 53% of married women.
- Of the 3.3 million women employed, almost 1.4 million were employed part-time.
- There are more than 1.45 million women with dependent children in the labour force – a 56% increase in 12 years.
- There are just under 400,000 women with dependent children under 5 in the labour force – an increase of 60.5% in the past 12 years.
- Two parent families with dependent children where both parents are in paid employment now constitute a clear majority of all two parent families.
- 45% of single parent families with dependent children are employed.
- In September 1993 of the 660,000 women not in the labour force, 40% cited family reasons as the main reason for not actively seeking work and of these nearly 80% cited the lack of suitable child care.
The ABS Survey of Families in Australia (1992) indicates:-
- There are almost 4.8 million household families in 1992.
- Of these about 1.4 million were couple families of whom 92% were in a registered marriage and 8% in a defacto relationship.
- The predominant family type was two parents with dependent children – almost 43% of all families.
- One parent families represented 13% of all families and in 84% of these the mother was the lone parent.
- Approximately one in 6 dependent children live in single parent families.
- One in five households in 1992 were lone person households, a substantial increase reflecting in the main the ageing of the population. Over half of all people living alone were aged 55+ and almost 70% were female.
- Almost 13% of indigenous people live in multi-family households.
Other significant changes in family formation include:-
- The number of one parent families increased by 42% between 1982-1992.
- In the same period defacto relationships increased by 100% for couples and 112% for those with children.
- 56% of marriages registered in 1992 were preceded by a period of defacto living (cf 16% in 1975).
- For every five marriages registered in 1991 there were two divorces.
- Almost 25% of all marriages in 1991 were remarriages for at least one partner.
- About 400,000 people had children under 14 outside the household – due to marriage breakdown.
- Just over ¼ million people in current marriages had children under 14 outside their custody in 1992.
Alongside these changes has been the growth in family carers.
- The ageing of the population, the increase in rates of disability, the shift away from institutional care and the growth of community care policies have all contributed to a rise in family carers.
- Policies often assure a high degree of support from within families, but there is insufficient societal recognition of the responsibilities of home based care.
- The ABS estimates that 18% of the population – 3.1 million – have a disability and of these almost 80% were classified has having a handicap.
- People with disabilities were much more likely to receive help from family members, friends and neighbours than they were from formal community or commercial services.
- The ABS identified 577,500 principal cares aged 15+ who cared for a person with a handicap, with females providing the majority of care (65%).
- The EPAC paper “Australia’s Ageing Society”, estimates that the proportion of the population aged 65+ will increase from 1% in 1991 to over 22% by 2051.
- The increased incidence of families where both parents are in paid employment and single parent families will result in increased difficulties in providing support to the aged and disabled.
The conclusions that we can draw from this information are:
- Women are an integral and growing part of the workforce. This trend has been underpinned by increasing levels of education, a decline in fertility rates, removal of institutional barriers and family changes.
- The traditional nuclear family model of the male breadwinner with full-time carer looking after dependents is no longer the norm for the majority of families.
These changes in both labour force participation and the nature of families have not been adequately reflected in supportive working arrangements.
The way workplaces are organised continues to be premised on the notion that there exists an invisible carer at the ready at all times to cope with family demands, especially in relation to sick family members.
Unions have, however, sought to come to grips with this changing workforce and in recognition of the fact that combining work and family responsibilities is the issue of the 1990’s the ACTU at its 1991 Congress adopted a “Workers With Family Responsibilities Strategy”.
This Strategy remains relevant now. In it the ACTU recognised the influx of women into the paid workforce and the ageing of the population. It noted that the care of children and elderly parents is the responsibility of both male and female workers.
It recognised that “these responsibilities often cause conflict and stress for workers who try to jiggle work and family commitments” and that at present the load falls more heavily on women.
The Strategy notes the achievements over the two years preceding the Congress in 1991.
These included ratification of ILO Convention 156 which the ACTU had strongly supported and lobbied for; the establishment of a Work and Family Unit in the Department of Industrial Relations; the Parental Leave Test Case; the development of guidelines on part-time and casual work and job sharing; the lodgement of a claim on Special Family Leave; research into how employees cope with family emergencies; a study into paid parental leave; and improvements in childcare both in the number of places and in subsidies for their use.
The priorities adopted in the Strategy adopted by the ACTU in 1991, were to extend parental leave, run the Special Family Leave Test Case, develop support for paid maternity leave, ensure part-time workers received pro rata benefits and access to training and promotion, include work and family issues in union enterprise bargaining agendas and develop strategies for more equal sharing of domestic responsibilities between men and women.
The issues for inclusion in union bargaining agendas were identified as childcare, time off for family emergencies, parental leave, career breaks and flexible working hours.
Family Leave Test Case
The Family Leave Test Case has been run with a decision from the Commission on 29 November 1994. The ACTU claimed five days paid leave per year to car for sick dependants. The Commission instead granted access to existing paid leave for this purpose as a right and from August this year, the aggregation of sick leave and compassionate/bereavement leave and access to it for family leave purposes.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald – which recognised that this means most employees will go from 8 to 10 days sick leave to 12 to 13 – the decision “is very significant because it recognises legally for the first time, the balance between work and family responsibilities” (30.11.94).
Study Into Family Emergencies
The study into how workers deal with family responsibilities was undertaken and relied upon by the ACTU in the test case. This is the Australian Institute of Family Studies, ‘When Roles Overlap’, report.
It was based on a sample of over 2,500 employees, both male and female, those with and without children, employed in the private and public sector in permanent, part-time and casual employment.
The study found:
- More than two-thirds of parents missed work during the course of a year for reasons relating to care for children. The most common cause of child-related absences was care of a sick child, followed by care during school holidays.
- In total, 50 percent of workers (almost six in 10 respondents) took time off work for family responsibilities in a 12-month period.
Considering all family responsibilities, male and female workers were equally likely to miss work to deal with family matters.
- Sixty-eight percent of parents took time off work for children. The most common reason was to care for sick children (46 percent of those who took time off).
- One in two mothers (52 percent) and about one in three fathers (31 percent) took some time off for this reason.
Of parents who took time off to care for sick children, the median length of time taken was two days. The average number of days taken by mothers and fathers was statistically different – mothers took an average of 3.8 days and fathers an average of 2.5 days.
The Overlap study shows workers have responsibilities to care for sick family members other than children. Of those respondents who took time off to deal with family responsibilities other than children, on average 4.5 days was taken, and a median of 2. Health of parents, spouse/partner and other relatives was the reason given by most employees.
The ACTU is currently negotiating with the Government with respect to the provision of paid maternity leave through the social security system.
It is notable that these negotiations are taking place within the Accord framework which has always included issues of special significance to women along with general wages and taxation issues.
For instance, childcare was a key component of earlier Accord negotiations as have Family Allowance matters and the spread of superannuation.
With respect to paid maternity leave these latest negotiations were also preceded by research work resulting in a comprehensive report on entitlements to this type of benefit in Australia and overseas.
As stated in the policy, the ACTU had developed guidelines on part-time and casual work prior to the 1991 Congress.
The issue of part-time work has often been a vexed one for many unions who have been keen to protect the position of full-time workers.
Our concern now is to ensure that part-time work is made available to meet not just an employer’s flexible work requirements but also to meet the employee’s needs.
Accordingly unions now support the introduction of part-time work subject to certain provisos including ratios of part-time to full-time employees; a reasonable minimum number of hours and set rostered time for part-time employees; full pro rata benefits and full integration into the workforce for part-time employees meaning full access to all training and promotional opportunities.
These protections are in fact supported and sought by employees themselves.
For example, the Financial Review reported on 31 March 1995, that a case study of major department stores showed a decrease in full-time and casual employees and increase in permanent part-time employees.
It found increased job dissatisfaction amongst front-line staff which it said was:
” … counterproductive for the underlying goal of improving service quality, almost 90% of full-time staff, those with the most knowledge of product lines and customer demands didn’t want to convert to part-time work or work unsocial hours, part-timers were happy to work unsocial hours provided penalty payments were made.
There were two sorts of part-timers – those who were “primary income earners” in their family and those who were “secondary income earners”.
According to the same article, similar problems had been experienced at the ANZ which had increased the proportion of part-time to full-time employees from 20% to 40% in three years. This showed about 42% of part-time employees quitting because they wanted more hours.
The increased vulnerability of part-time employees was also shown when the Kennett Government abolished awards in Victoria. Many part-time employees, mostly women, complained at the time about employers seeking to arbitrarily alter their hours of work and rosters regardless of child care needs.
It is also shown in work currently being undertaken by the ACTU in respect to pursuing equal pay. Instances have been uncovered where part-time and casual employees are routinely excluded from access to overaward payments.
The whole issue of transferring casual employees to permanent part-time employment can be fraught in respect to the wishes of employees as well as employers.
Many employees wish to continue receiving the casual penalty rates generally fixed at around 20% although the ACTU believes this no longer adequately compensates them for the non-payment of permanent employees entitlements such as annual leave, etc.
Since 1991 we have seen the rapid movement to a greater focus on enterprise bargaining in our wage fixing system. This means that the issue of union bargaining agendas, which was identified as a priority in the 1991 Policy, is now of enormous importance in achieving the changes to working conditions necessary to ensure the proper recognition of the needs of families alongside work responsibilities.
The ACTU has taken a number of steps to promote issues relating to workers with family responsibilities in this context. These include the publication of Guidelines and participation in a study of how the introduction of flexible hours in enterprise agreements is affecting women.
Before going into more detail about enterprise bargaining, I would like to touch briefly on the legislative framework in which unions are pursuing these policy objectives. This framework is set out in the Industrial Relations Act.
Following the last election major changes were introduced into that framework through the Industrial Relations Reform Act which was passed by Parliament in December 1993 and became operative from 30 March 1994.
As a result of the Reform Act the Industrial Relations Act now contains some quite significant advances in terms of blending the two requirements facing today’s workforce – meeting the needs of their employer and the needs of their family.
The Act sets out specific responsibilities on the Industrial Relations Commission in respect to family responsibilities.
Objects Of The Act
First “helping prevent and eliminate discrimination on the basis of … marital status, family responsibilities” etc, is now specified as one of the principal objects of the Act in S.3(g).
The need for the Commission to take family responsibilities into account in awards and agreements is also highlighted in the Act.
The Commission is directed by Section 93A to, in performing its functions, take account of “the principles embodied in the Family Responsibilities Convention”, which is the Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention 1981.
In particular with respect to:
- preventing discrimination against workers who have family responsibilities; and
- helping workers to reconcile their employment and family responsibilities.
Relevant articles of the Convention are:
With a view to creating effective equality of opportunity and treatment for men and women workers, all measures compatible with national conditions and possibilities shall be taken:
(a) to enable workers with family responsibilities to exercise their right to free choice of employment; and
(b) to take account of their needs in terms and conditions of employment and in social security.
All measures compatible with national conditions and possibilities, including measures in the field of vocational guidance and training, shall be taken to enable workers with family responsibilities to become and remain integrated in the labour force, as well as to re-enter the labour force after an absence due to those responsibilities.
Family responsibilities shall not, as such, constitute a valid reason for termination of employment.
Division 5 of Part VIA – Minimum Entitlements of Employees – also deals specifically with parental leave.
Section 170KA sets out the objects of the Division, which are to give effect to the Family Responsibilities Convention and its associated Recommendation.
Subsection 170KA(1) gives effect to the Convention by providing for unpaid parental and adoption leave, that will help workers, with family responsibilities in relation to their dependent children:
- prepare for and participate in economic activity; and
- reconcile employment and family responsibilities.
The Convention applies to workers with family responsibilities where those responsibilities restrict their capacity to prepare for, enter, participate in or advance in economic activity [Article 1]. The Convention encompasses responsibilities in relation to dependent children [Article 1.1] and in relation to other immediate family members who clearly need the worker’s care or support [Article 1.2].
It requires parties to the Convention to take measures to take account of the needs of workers with family responsibilities in terms and conditions of employment [Article 4], to enable workers with family responsibilities to exercise their right to free choice of employment [Article 4], to become and remain integrated in the labour force [Article 7], and to re-enter the labour force after absence due to family responsibilities. [Article 7]
Subsection 170KA(2) gives effect to one particular way in which workers with family responsibilities are assisted under this scheme, by providing a right to obtain unpaid parental leave, without giving up employment or the rights associated with employment in Schedule 14 of the Act. The subsection also clarifies that the maternity and paternity leave provided for in Schedule 14 is parental leave.
The Workers with Family Responsibilities Recommendation, adopted at the same time as the Family Responsibilities Convention, states that measures should be taken to ensure that terms and conditions of employment are such as to enable workers with family responsibilities to reconcile their employment and family responsibilities [paragraph 17]. Paragraph 22 of the Recommendation provides specifically that either parent should have the possibility of obtaining parental leave without relinquishing employment and with rights resulting from employment being safeguarded.
Provision is made for the mother to take leave before the birth of the child for medical purposes. It is expected that women who take such leave will have access to an alternative source of parental leave, or use other leave entitlement such as annual leave. Nor is there provision for transfer to safer work as encompassed in the Test Case Award Provision.
The entitlements established under Schedule 14 are identified in subsection 170KA(4), as minimum entitlements that will supplement, not override or replace, any other entitlement under Commonwealth, State or Territory legislation and awards. Schedule 14 requires an employee who has an enforceable right to parental leave from an alternative source to apply for and exhaust any such leave before access to the Commonwealth entitlement is allowed.
Subsection 170KA(5) states that the regulations will provide for a system of unpaid adoption leave, that is analogous to the parental leave provided for under this Division and Schedule 14.
Division 6 – Leave to care for immediate family – also contained in Part VIA – provides that unless an application has been made by 1 March 1994, to the Commission for a test case to establish leave to provide care or support for a member of the employee’s immediate family who is ill, then the commission must conduct a hearing to determine whether such leave should be granted.
The ACTU has run a test case and achieved improvements which I have already dealt with.
The Act makes it clear that discrimination on the grounds of family responsibilities in terms of awards and enterprise agreements and dismissals is unacceptable.
As is discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or marital status, etc.
The Act also entrenches the role of awards in our system of industrial relations, notwithstanding the move to enterprise bargaining.
Awards contain the safety net of wages and conditions below which workers cannot fall in terms of agreements they might enter into. These remain of crucial importance for workers who are not able to negotiate agreements with their employer, ie. those in an industrially weak position including many women workers.
It is therefore important that they reflect reasonable standards regarding conditions affecting workers with family responsibilities.
In this pursuit unions are assisted by the Act which requires awards to be maintained at a relevant level – in terms of both wages and conditions.
Award provisions especially impacting on workers with family responsibilities include:
Maternity Leave (1978-1979)
- 52 weeks unpaid leave for mothers;
- extended to adopting mothers;
Parental Leave (1989-1990)
- 52 weeks unpaid leave for fathers (up to first birthday), part-time work to the age of 2 years;
Family Leave (1993)
- entitlement to use sick leave;
- after August 1995 aggregation of sick leave/compassionate leave resulting in a likely additional 3 days leave.
Part-Time Work Provisions
- reflecting ACTU policy, pro rata benefits, ratios, fixed hours, access to training and promotion, reversion;
- the Act now specifies that awards contain skill based career structures or all employees.
Notwithstanding the continuing role of awards in providing industry or occupation-wide entitlements it is clear that enterprise bargaining offers unions and workers the scope to enter into agreements that best suit their own needs.
In this respect it is possible to introduce a whole range of family friendly policies subject to the primary criteria that employees are not disadvantaged by any new arrangements.
There are also quite specific requirements regarding consultation prior to the reaching of agreements which is important given the differential impact of changes on different groups of workers.
The ACTU, in Guidelines For Enterprise Bargaining published in 1992, called on unions to include the following matters in what was called a Union Checklist of Work and Family Issues for Enterprise Bargaining:
- Ensure that the parental leave standard is included in any agreement or award.
- Ensure distribution of information on parental leave to employees.
- Ensure that the option of “permanent part-time” work is available for employees after maternity or parental leave.
- Introduce maternity/parental leave networks, counselling, etc.
- Ensure there is a maternity/parental leave policy in the enterprise’s superannuation scheme(s).
- Where possible, negotiate a period of paid maternity and paternity leave.
- Ensure there is a provision for extended leave or career breaks.
- Ensure there is a provision for leave or time off for family reasons, eg. to care for a sick child.
Investigate the child care needs of employees.
Establish appropriate forms of employer supported child care as required, either on behalf of the enterprise or a joint venture with other employers, eg:
- single employer child care centre;
- joint venture child care centre;
- purchase of places in existing centre;
- provision of land for child care centre;
- sponsorship of family day care scheme;
- provision of out of school child care;
- vacation care scheme;
- child care referral service;
- contribution to employees’ child care fees.
- Ensure that there is a provision for “permanent part-time work” for those employees who need it, and reduce or eliminate casual part-time work, as per ACTU guidelines.
- Introduce a provision for job sharing if appropriate.
- Provide maximum flexibility in the employee’s choice of working hours, rosters or shifts.
- Introduce a “Working From Home” provision if appropriate.
- Introduce an affirmative action clause.
- Introduce a “relocation” policy if appropriate.
- Develop educational and other programs to meet the needs of workers with family responsibilities.
Unions are starting to incorporate clauses covering these issues into enterprise agreements.
The new legislative framework encourages enterprise bargaining through two streams – one unionised resulting in Certified Agreements and one non-unionised resulting in Enterprise Flexibility Agreements.
In March 1995, the industrial newsletter Workforce reviewing the first 25 Enterprise Flexibility Agreements (out of a total of 49) noted that small workplaces were the norm, and that the elimination of overtime, replaced by time in lieu, incorporation of annual leave loadings into annualised salaries and greater flexibility in the taking of RDOs are the major matters being incorporated into these Agreements.
In terms of Certified Agreements, by the end of February 1995 some 4,000 had been registered with the Commission.
Workforce also reported that special family leave was provided for in some form in 202 workplace agreements. [Workforce Issue No.1015, March 31, 1995]
- Australian Tourist Commission – Flexible Working Opportunities
“The parties will review the opportunities for providing more flexible working arrangements by introducing greater access to part-time work, particularly for staff with family and other caring responsibilities. Permanent part-time employment opportunities will be reviewed to assist employees with families and other external commitments to balance those demands with their working lives.
This measure will benefit the organisation by increasing its ability to retain skilled staff, demonstrate its commitment to the principles of Employment Opportunity, maintain high level of output from staff, and strengthen their commitment to their work and the ATC.”
- Crown Casino Ltd – Obligations of Crown Casino Limited
“To meet the commitments made in this Agreement Crown Casino Limited will apply principles of human resource management and employee relations which will:
(b) Establish and maintain a committed permanent workforce with high levels of functional flexibility and minimise the use of casual employment, by agreeing to:
- ensure equal opportunity for development and promotion for men and women, workers with family responsibilities and employees from different ethnic backgrounds.
20. Sickness, Family And Compassionate Leave
Crown Casino Limited recognises the importance to employees of personal circumstances including family responsibilities. It is the intention of Crown Casino to provide the opportunity for employees to honestly utilise the following paid leave entitlements to meet such responsibilities as well as in cases of personal illness or injury, and for compassionate reasons.
To enable Crown casino to plan ahead to meet absences approved in accordance with this clause, it is necessary for employees wherever possible to provide early notice of any intention to take sick, family or compassionate leave.
A full-time employee, after 4 weeks service, will be entitled to 12 days (91.2 hours) of paid sick leave per year of service for the purpose of sick, family or compassionate leave, such leave may be taken as whole or part of a day or days.
Permanent part-time and temporary employees will be entitled to a pro-rata amount of the sick, family and compassionate leave entitlement of a full-time employee.
Crown Casino Limited will grant paid leave where employees are unable to attend to work because of family emergencies. Such emergencies will include the illness of a child, spouse or partner, same-sex partner, elderly parent, absence of the child’s carer, or the closure of a child’s school, in situations where the employee is unable to make other arrangements at short notice.”
- Sheraton Towers Southgate Employee Relations Agreement 1992
“21. Family Emergency Leave
The Company will grant unpaid leave where employees are unable to attend for work because of family emergencies. Such emergencies will include the illness of a child, spouse, or elderly parent, absence of the child’s carer, or the closure of a child’s school. The length of leave will be at the discretion of the appropriate manager.”
Alpine Resorts Commission Enterprise Bargaining Agreement 1993
“12. Sick And Family Leave
(a) An employee shall be entitled to 15 days sick leave for each year of service. Up to five days of this leave may be taken for the purpose of caring for a sick wife, husband or defacto wife, husband, father, mother, brother, sister, child or step child, mother-in-law and father-in-law.”
- CFMEU and ABBP Paving Contractors
“4.3 Special Family Leave
In recognition of progress towards a significant reduction in absenteeism, the company will allow an employee to utilise up to fie (5) of his/her sick leave entitlements each year as special family leave. These days can be taken as required if the spouse, children or close relative of the employee is taken ill. An employee will not have to provide documentation in support of taking special family leave, but if abuse of this provision is suspected a matter can be referred to the site consultative committee.”
- AMP Customer Service Division Enterprise Agreement 1993
“7. Personal Emergency Leave
7.1 CSD may grant paid leave where an employee is unable to attend work because of an emergency. Such emergencies will include:
7.1.1 the death of a close relative or close friend;
7.1.2 illness of a child, partner or parent, or other dependant of the employee; absence of a child’s carer, or unforeseen closure of a child’s school;
7.1.3 other such unforeseen occasions considered appropriate at the discretion of the manager.
7.2 The total amount of paid leave that may be granted shall not normally exceed five days per annum and shall not accumulate from year to year.
7.3 The parties acknowledge that AMP shall no longer provide the following categories of leave:
- Easter and Christmas Concession Days
- Marriage Leave
- Moving Days
- Bereavement Leave
- Compassionate Leave
- Sports Leave”
- Maternity Leave Networks/Counselling
A number of employers are providing networks, training and self-development for women on Maternity Leave, eg:
Westpac which was concerned it was losing annually more than 500 women employees with an average of seven years employment following maternity leave.
McCain’s Frozen Foods (Victoria and Tasmania) which provides counselling and also maternity leave to casual and seasonal workers.
- Career Breaks/Extended Leave
Many of the banks provide unpaid leave for family or other reasons, ie. Commonwealth up to 3 years, National Australia up to 5 years.
Victorian Public Service and Victorian Teaching Service allowed unpaid leave to care for a child up to 7 years after the birth.
In conclusion the ACTU recognises the changing nature of Australia’s workforce and the changes in society and consequential family arrangements.
Unions recognise the need to be relevant to the needs of workers if it is to survive into the future. This includes parents – both men and women – who work, women workers, part-time workers and young workers.
Unions recognise that many of the growth areas of employment are in traditional female jobs and in part-time jobs. Unions need to be responsive to women’s special needs in relation to child bearing and child rearing.
Unions recognise that as women enter the paid workforce in increasing numbers both child rearing and domestic responsibilities become increasingly men’s as well as women’s concerns.
Unions have developed policies aimed at assisting workers combine work and family responsibilities.
We are pursuing these policies in a supportive legislative framework that encompasses both awards and enterprise agreements.
Advances have been made in terms of leave entitlements and child care in particular. However, concerns about the needs and vulnerability of part-time workers remain. These and a whole range of broader issues now need to be addressed.
We will continue to pursue these policies as effectively as we can.
Speech by Jenny Doran, ACTU Industrial Officer. “Work and Family Responsibilities: Making the Workplace More Responsive To The Needs of Families” Australian Association Of Career Counsellors 1995 National Conference, The Carlton Radisson. Friday, 28 April 1995.