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Part-time work discrimination case demands govt action

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 27 Oct 2011

Greens Senator for NSW and spokesperson for women Lee Rhiannon, in response to a high profile sex-discrimination case  regarding part-time work, is calling on the Gillard government to act on recommendations of a 2007 report of the Human Rights Commission designed to promote better flexible work arrangements for women (“Discrimination case is settled outside of court”, SMH, p 3 today).

“Balancing work and family is a daily challenge for most women and this case, which involved sidelining and eventual redundancy, is symbolic of the discrimination some women can face in seeking part-time work,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“Labor’s been dragging the chain for for years on meeting the needs of part-time workers. Taking action to establish a Family Responsibilities and Carers' Rights Act would be a step in the right direction.

“Statistics show forty-five per cent of all employed women in Australia work part-time compared to 15 per cent of men.

 “Recommendations of the HREOC report, ‘It’s About Time: Women, men, work and family’, calling for legislation to protect employees with family and carer responsibilities and provide a right to request flexible work arrangements have not been implemented by government.

“Improving flexible work options for women requires concerted government action and it is negligent to ignore this report which follows two years of research and community consultation around Australia,” Senator Rhiannon said.

Recommendations of the HREOC report include:

  • That a federal Family Responsibilities and Carers' Rights Act be introduced to provide protection from discrimination for employees with family and carer responsibilities and a right to request flexible work arrangements.
  • That the government fund HREOC to establish a Family Responsibilities and Carers' Rights Unit to promote the principles of the new legislation, undertake educational and promotional activities, and contribute to policy and legislative development in the area of family responsibilities discrimination and carers' rights.
  • That the Family Responsibilities and Carers' Rights Act include a right for workers with family and carer responsibilities to request flexible work arrangements with a corresponding duty on employers to reasonably consider these requests. Refusal to reasonably consider a request for flexible work arrangements could then be the subject of a complaint to HREOC.
  • That the Australian Government establish a national working hours framework which promotes flexibility and encourages workplaces to limit long hours working.
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