A test case being filed in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission today sets out to create new award guidelines for reasonable working hours.

The ACTU’s Reasonable Hours claim seeks to establish flexible guidelines on excessive hours of work and unhealthy roster patterns. The guidelines would be tailored to suit the requirements of individual industries. Under the application, unions will seek to have factors such as an employee’s safety, family responsibilities, workload and the number of hours worked over an extended period considered in determining reasonable hours of work.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said it was time for unions, the government and employers to work together to find practical solutions that would bring balance to the lives of working families.

“This debate has been growing for many months. So far, the Government and employers have stayed silent. This is a bi-partisan issue that goes to the heart of how we want to grow and prosper as a nation, and all parties should contribute to the debate,” said Ms Burrow. “The pressure to work longer, less predictable and often unpaid extra hours is stretching working families to the limit. As a community, we need to address the issue of unreasonable hours to restore some balance to our working lives.”

“Australia needs safe, flexible solutions. Employers know that tired workers are unsafe and unproductive. European Union nations are leading the way by introducing sensible laws that relieve the pressure on working families.”

Recent studies show that one in four of all Australian employees now work more than 50 hours a week, giving Australia the second-longest working hours in the OECD. The European Union has agreed to limit average weekly hours to 48, while France is cutting the limit to 35.

“Unlike France, we do not want a cap on working hours. This case seeks an imaginative and flexible framework for the workplaces of the 21st Century,” said Ms Burrow.