64) The value of flexible working arrangements in assisting employees to balance their work and family responsibilities is not disputed. In the Parental Leave Test Case, ACCI and the NFF submitted that there is ‘near universal recognition of the critical role that non-full-time work plays in allowing family responsibilities with paid work’ (at [288]), and AIG called evidence supporting ‘the practicality and value’ of job-sharing arrangements in enabling employees to continue working while managing their personal and family circumstances (at [316]). However, the quality and security of such non-full-time work and (relatedly) the framework within which such arrangements are discussed in the workplace, remains contested.

65) The ACTU submits that the merit case for a new award provision promoting flexible working arrangements – supported by detailed and probative expert and lay evidence – has now been made out twice. More than twelve years ago, the AIRC observed that ‘achieving a balance between work and family is fundamental to Australia’s national interest and to a cohesive, productive society’.44

The AIRC determined after hearing all the evidence in the Parental Leave Test Case that it
should ‘take a positive step’ to assist employees to balance their work and family responsibilities and that it was ‘necessary to go beyond simply providing for agreement’ between employers and employees.45 The ACTU submits that the importance of balancing work and family to Australia’s national economic interest, and to the interests of employees and employers, has only increased since then. While the Provisional Model Term falls short of what the ACTU considers to be necessary, it constitutes a positive step towards promoting flexible modern work practices and assisting employees to balance their work and family responsibilities. The Commission can and should vary modern awards to insert the Provisional Model Term.


44 Parental Leave Test Case, [76]