ACTU calls to make working hours match reality of modern life

by HRD28 Aug 2017
Employees should be able to reduce their working hours on a temporary basis so they can better manage their caring responsibilities, according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

The ACTU said the current rules do not match the reality of modern life, and working mothers and fathers - or employees with elderly parents - are struggling.

It wants workers to be entitled to temporarily reduced hours, and to have the option of returning to previous hours once caring responsibilities are finished.

Moreover, it has applied to the Fair Work Commission for a new entitlement for workers to better manage their caring responsibilities.

The current rules mean that workers can ask for a change in hours, and employers can agree or disagree.

However, under the new arrangement, employers would be required to show cause if they didn't allow a request linked to unpaid caring.

The push comes after a survey of more than 5400 Australians found 85% have significant family caring or parenting responsibilities.

The survey, conducted for the ACTU, found 40% of workers have asked their employer for reduced hours for caring, but almost a quarter of these had been denied.

It also found that almost one in two workers needs access to reduced hours for caring, and women are almost twice as likely to ask for reduced hours for caring.

Moreover, employers were found to be 50% more likely to reject a male worker's request for reduced hours, and an inflexible workplace culture is the reason most cited for workers not asking for reduced hours to care for a member of family.

"We think people should really have the right to be able to reduce their hours on a temporary basis so they can actually fulfil their caring responsibilities," said ACTU president Ged Kearney on ABC radio.

"At the moment you can ask your employer but your employer can simply say no and you have no right to appeal that."

The ACTU is launching a new campaign titled Change the Rules for Working Women & Families.

The case will be heard before a full bench of the FWC in December.

In July this year, it was announced that under a new FWC ruling, casual workers had won the right to request permanent roles after 12 months if they work regular hours over a year.

The FWC determined that a change to permanent work could occur if a “casual employee (over a calendar period of 12 months) has worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis which, without significant adjustment, could continue to be performed in accordance with the full-time or part-time employment provisions of the relevant award”.

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  • by Simon McCoy 28/08/2017 3:08:40 PM

    And just how does the ACTU think the work will be done whilst the worker has temporarily changed their working hours? I guess that doesn't matter.

  • by Catherine Cahill 28/08/2017 7:00:38 PM

    I find it irritating that whenever stats on Part Time work are published the ACTU immediately insists that this is actually employer induced under-employment.

    The ACTU never acknowledges or campaigns for part time work for people who wish to manage carer's (or other) responsibilities this way. And now they come up with this "plan".

  • by 6/09/2017 6:59:03 PM

    Presumably, many employers would choose to 'show cause' to refuse requests. In any case, many employers systematically fail to pay their workers what they are legally owed (7 Eleven, McDonalds, Caltex, unpaid superannuation are only a small proportion of it) and Australian workers annually 'donate' many billions of dollars of unpaid work to their employers, so there is undoubtedly some financial scope for many organisations to find staffing solutions.

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