The ACTU is seeking new rights for parents and carers to family-flexible work arrangements in an historic national test case which starts today before a full bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in Melbourne.

Speaking before the opening of the case today, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“The Work and Family Test Case is an historic opportunity to bring our workplaces into line with the needs of Australian families in the twenty-first century.

“The conflict between work and family life is putting millions of families under enormous strain and it is now time to solve this major social problem.

The results of the test case will directly affect more than 1.6 million people working on federal industrial awards and eventually flow on to benefit up to 4.5 million Australians that have caring responsibilities.

The new workplace rights sought by the ACTU include:

  • A choice for parents to take up to two years unpaid leave after the birth of
    a child.
  • An option to work part-time for up to five years until children are at
  • Flexible start and finish times so that parents and carers can pick up or
    deliver children to school or childcare.
  • An ability for employees to ‘salary sacrifice’ and ‘buy’ up to
    six weeks a year extra time off for school holidays.
  • Key evidence to be presented by the ACTU shows:

  • The current entitlement of one year unpaid parental leave is not enough with
    60% of mothers not returning to work within this time.
  • A right to work part time until children are at school is important with
    research showing most mothers working full time (60%) would prefer part time
  • The mismatch between school or childcare and current work hours and leave
    entitlements is creating significant gaps in care for children.
  • Australia ranks very low internationally in terms of work and family.
    Leaving aside former Eastern bloc nations, Australia is ranked thirteenth out of
    fourteen OECD nations.
  • The major employer groups ACCI, Ai Group as well as the Howard Government are opposing the ACTU proposals for new obligations on employers – ignoring evidence that voluntary changes by individual employers won’t work for the hundreds of thousands of people, especially women, who are in low paid, casual jobs and have little bargaining power.”

    More Information

    Cath Bowtell’s Opening Address To The ACTU Work And Family Test Case – summary of the ACTU’s evidence and arguments for the Work and Family Test Case with proposals to resolve the conflict that arises when a worker is simultaneously expected to be available to their employer and available to their family.

    Tables To Accompany Opening Address – tables and statistics referred to in the opening address.

    Work and Family Fact Sheet – what the ACTU is claiming, what claims have been settled and statistics that outline the major social changes that have intensified pressure on employees struggling to balance work and family life.

    Work And Family Test Case 2004. ACTU Outline Of Contentions – An outline of the contentions and evidence in the ACTU’s Work and Family Test Case 2004.

    ACTU Work And Family Test Case Evidence – research, papers and articles submitted as evidence in the ACTU’s Work and Family Test Case.

    For more information visit the ACTU Work and Family campaign area.

    The Australian Industrial Relations Commission – has set up an area for the Work and Family Test Case with the applications, submissions, transcript and other material from all the parties involved in the case.

    The AIRC has also produced a factsheet with a timeline for the case, who is presiding, and about the claims.