Australia is a nation of working carers, new study finds

Queensland Unions are joining an Australia-wide campaign to improve the lives of employees juggling work with caring and parenting responsibilities.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) today released survey results showing 85 per cent of working Australians also have significant family caring and/or parenting responsibilities.

Queensland Unions are already at the forefront of the new campaign to Change the Rules for Working Women & Families.

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan aid more than 5,400 Australians responded to the survey.

“They clearly told us that life is not all about working,” said Ms McLennan.

“Participants said they need time to care for children or family members with a disability, medical condition, mental illness or an aging parent or other family member.”

Queensland Unions have already secured nation-leading domestic violence leave for workers in the state, and believe family friendly policies are vitally important to cope with modern life.

According to the survey, around 60 percent of working people have never asked for reduced hours to assist with juggling family caring and work, with many worried about their job security and many suggesting that their workplace management and culture does not support flexible work.

Queensland Unions – through the ACTU –  are arguing in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) that all employees should be entitled to reduced or part-time working hours when they have caring and parenting responsibilities, on a temporary basis, and go back to their role and previous hours when caring responsibilities reduce or cease.

The FWC will hear the case in December.

Key survey findings:

  • Almost 85% of Australian workers have or have had a caring role;
  • 65% had cared for a child of school age or younger
  • 27% had cared for someone frail or aged
  • 25% had cared for someone with a medical condition
  • 14% had cared for someone with a mental illness.
  • Almost 40% of workers have asked their employer for reduced hours for caring and almost a quarter of these had been knocked back;
  • Almost one in two workers need access to reduced hours for caring;
  • Women are almost twice as likely to ask for reduced hours for caring;
  • Employers are 50% more likely to reject a male worker’s request for reduced hours;
  • Inflexible workplace culture is the reason most cited for workers not asking for reduced hours to care for a family member;

The “Change the Rules for Working Women and Families” campaign will include:

  • Changing the rules for women to tackle the gender pay gap, insecure work and inequality;
  • Providing a better balance for women and families for work, family and care;
  • Enshrining 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave across Australia, not just in Queensland.