The ACTU is very pleased to achieve a set of new rights for working Australians that include up to two years of unpaid parental leave after the birth of a child and the right to request part time work when parents return to work.

Commenting on the decision of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in the Work and Family Test Case today, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

Unions are pleased that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission has today approved the key elements of the ACTUs long-running Work and Family Test Case.

But unions are concerned the success of this result will be short-lived unless the Howard Govt guarantees that working families will have these rights in its proposed new minimum employment conditions due to become law in October this year.

The Commission has awarded the following new rights for employees that have caring responsibilities:

1. The right for employees to request up to 24 months unpaid parental leave after the birth of a child. This represents a doubling of the current 12 month entitlement.

2. The right for employees to request part-time work on their return to work from parental leave and before their children are at school.

3. A new Personal Leave entitlement that allows up to ten days of paid leave a year for the purpose of caring for family members or for family emergencies double the current five day provision.

4. A new right for all employees, including casuals, to take up to two days unpaid leave for family emergencies on each occasion such an emergency should arise.

5. A duty on employers to not unreasonably refuse an employees request for extended parental leave or return to work part-time.,/P>

The AIRC has struck a good balance between employee and employer interests in this decision.

This positive result in the Work and Family Test Case is evidence of the useful role played by the AIRC in modernising Australias working arrangements.

However the role pf the AIRC is under serious threat by the Howard Governments workplace reforms.

For over 100 years in Australia, Test Cases of this kind which are heard before the independent Industrial Relations Commission have allowed unions to ensure that important pay increases, job conditions and rights are passed on to all workers through the award system.

The Federal Governments workplace reforms will lead to reduced rights for more than 1.5 million award workers and mean this is the last award test case of its kind.

See Background Factsheet below: