Australian workers may soon be able to access up to 10 days of their paid sick leave to care for sick children and relatives or to meet family emergencies the ACTU said today.

Australia’s peak union body believes it is close to finalising an agreement with employer groups that would extend the leave available to employees to meet family care and emergency responsibilities from the current 5 days a year to 10 days a year.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow described the proposed new arrangements as an important breakthrough for working families and one that recognised the need to make working arrangements in Australia more family friendly.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:
“These arrangements will be welcomed by Australian workers as a step in the right direction.

The proposals recognise that as a community we must find better ways to balance the demands of work with our responsibilities outside the workplace.’

Unions and employers have nearly finalised an agreement that will give workers with family responsibilities more flexibility and following ratification by the Industrial Relations Commission, the agreement will mean that the current minimum entitlement of five days carers’ leave will be doubled.

The proposal would convert existing employee ‘sick leave’ entitlements to a broader category of ‘personal leave’ and allow current leave entitlement to be taken for a broader range of purposes.

It means that parents will be able to take the leave when there is an emergency such as when the usual care or school arrangements for their children breaks down.

The new arrangement will also be useful for workers who need to take time off to care for ageing or disabled relatives.

A recent Newspoll survey commissioned by the ACTU shows that time off for family emergencies is the top priority for one in four people – beating extra family payments from the Government by more than two to one.”

The proposed new flexible leave arrangements are part of an ACTU campaign to make Australian workplaces more family friendly.

In a major Work & Family Test Case to be heard later this year unions will be seeking flexible working hours and holiday times to accommodate school and childcare, a choice to work part time, and the extension of unpaid parental leave from 12 to 24 months. ”