Unions are supporting calls for extra help for working families, including rights to more paid leave for parents and more affordable child care raised in the Work and Family Roundtable 2007 Benchmark report released this week.

The main key areas that need to be addressed to help Australian working families in the work and family balance struggle are:

  • Government funded paid maternity leave
  • Two weeks paid paternity leave
  • Better access to more affordable child care
  • Better access to secure part time work.
  • The OECD Employment Outlook 2007 released last month also stated that countries that didn’t have paid maternity leave would stand to increase their multi factor productivity by introducing a paid maternity leave system.

    ACTU President Sharan Burrow, said:

    “Everyday across Australia working families are battling to balance work and family life which has been made harder by the Howard Government’s IR laws.

    “The fact is that many workplaces are becoming less friendly for families. Workers are losing the right to paid overtime and penalty rates for working on weekends or Public Holidays.

    “This is making it easier for employers to make their staff work after hours and on weekends — meaning workers have less time to spend with their families.

    “Workers have also lost the right to have a say over their rosters which is no longer a protected award condition and is not covered by the new so-called fairness test.

    “At the same time as families are struggling to cope with the extra pressure created by John Howard’s IR laws, Australia’s child care system is in crisis with working families paying too much and having to deal with long waiting lists.

    “Unions want immediate action on these issues to give relief to families juggling their work and family priorities.

    “The Workplace Relations Minister’s response to the Work and Family Roundtable 2007 Benchmark report is inadequate in terms of what it promises for working families as well as inaccurate on a number of key points.

    “One glaring problem with the Minister’s statement concerns his claim that the Howard Government ‘for the first time enshrined the right to 52 weeks unpaid parental leave’ in legislation when in fact the Keating Government did this in 1993 — WRA Part VIA, Div 5, Section 170KA(3).

    “The Minister also claims that ‘more and more employers are offering family friendly conditions’ but fails to provide any evidence for this when the benchmark report states that more workers are working ‘non-standard’ hours and many work longer and irregular hours.

    “Minister Hockey also needs to respond to the apparent rise in cases of discrimination against women in the workplace with a report in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper yesterday of three women being sacked while trying to balance their work and family responsibilities.

    “These kind of cases just should not be happening in 21st century Australia and it shows that we have a lack of leadership on these issues from the Howard Government,” said Ms Burrow.