9 March 2023
Senate Work & Care Inquiry Delivers Blueprint for Government Action
A landmark Senate report has called for a major overhaul of Australia’s workplace laws to fix the crisis affecting workers with caring responsibilities.
In the first report of its kind, the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care, chaired by Greens Senator Barbara Pocock, has released key reform recommendations supported by the majority of the committee, including Labor members.
The report recommends:
- A right to disconnect from work outside paid hours;
- Examine the case for a shorter working week
- Moving toward 52 weeks Paid Parental Leave
- Childcare: steps towards universal, quality, early childhood education
- Lifting pay for care workers in childcare, disability and aged care;
- A right to predictable, stable rosters;
- Paid sick, carers and holiday leave for casuals
“Australia is mired in a work and care crisis which demands bold reform to fix an economic, gender equity and workforce crisis,” Committee Chair and Greens Senator Barbara Pocock said.
“The committee’s report gives the Government the blueprint it needs to revolutionise our workplace laws so Australians, and particularly women, can find a balance between working and caring responsibilities,” she said.
“Australia is an international outlier in terms of our support for workers with caring responsibilities. We have slipped too far behind. And we are paying a price in labour supply, stressed workers, and gender inequality.
“It is time for a new social contract, fit for the 21st Century workforce, that does not put the burden on workers juggling care responsibilities around their jobs,” Senator Pocock said.
“Our economy now relies as much on women workers as men, and we need a new approach that recognises that nearly all workers at some point in their lives will need to provide care for children, the elderly and disabled.
“We need more than a right to work, we need a right to both work and care,” Senator Pocock said.
Some employers are already seeing the benefits of more flexible working arrangements and are moving to give workers a bigger say in rostering and ensuring the right to disconnect.
“We heard evidence from several employers, including one conducting a trial where workers maintain their full-time wage while working a 4 day week, that giving workers greater control over their rosters can enhance productivity,” said Senator Pocock.
‘Without action, we are loading up women and carers, lowering their earnings, increasing their stress and leaving too many in poverty after a life-time of work and care’.
‘Work-life balance is a remote dream for too many. Especially those living the nightmare of last-minute shift changes which make finding care for loved ones or kids impossible. Unpredictable ‘just in time’ shifts don’t work for workers who look after others.
“We must recognise - and measure - the essential value of unpaid care to our economy and our wellbeing,” Senator Pocock said. “It’s worth at least half the value of GDP. The economy can’t exist without care, without reproduction of the workers of the future,” she said.
“It’s time to give new parents more paid leave when a baby arrives, and to recognise that childcare is an essential part of economic infrastructure, like the roads we use to get to work. Quality, universal care narrows inequality. At present it is too expensive and hard to find in too many places. It should be free,” Senator Pocock said.
“This report argues for a holistic not piecemeal approach. We need to look after carers better, rather than punish them with poverty and punitive work tests. And we need to respond to the changing nature of work by making sure our jobs and technology don’t eat our lives. Many other countries have put limits on working time creating the right to disconnect.
“These measures will help alleviate the pressures of working and caring in Australia. We have been moving in the wrong direction - with fraying job security and increasingly unpredictable working time for too many. It’s time for action in the opposite direction,” said Senator Pocock.