Working mothers who cannot return to full time jobs after maternity leave would no longer lose their jobs under an ACTU Test Case lodged today.

The Work and Family Test Case will seek a new right for working mothers to switch to part time work after maternity leave.

Working parents could also take extra unpaid leave during school holidays, negotiate flexible start and finish times and take time off for family emergencies such as caring for sick children.

Casual workers would also be entitled to the new benefits from the Test Case being lodged with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission today.

“Parents of pre-school children who want to work part time should not have to give up good full time jobs for insecure casual work,” said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

“Women wanting part time work often have no choice but casual jobs without any leave entitlements. More than half of working mothers work part time, and two-thirds of those part time jobs are casual,” Ms Burrow said.

“The ACTU ‘s Test Case will make it easier for people to be both good employees and good parents – at little or no cost to employers. The Case would provide greater job security and reduce the career disadvantage experienced by many women.”

The Australian Institute of Family Studies estimates that 40% of working mothers have no leave entitlements and that 60% of mothers in full time jobs would prefer part time work. Bureau of Statistics figures show that the proportion of couples with children in Australia where both parents work increased from 44% in 1981 to 62% in 2000.

The Work and Family Test Case proposes changes to federal industrial awards to:

  • give full-time employees returning from parental leave a right to part-time
  • allow employees to “buy” up to 6 weeks extra leave through
    salary adjustments;
  • give employees the right to request more flexible hours;
  • give employees the right to emergency family leave; and
  • extend the current UNPAID parental leave period from 12 months to 24