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Home > News > 2017 > August > Time to change the rules on balancing work and family

Time to change the rules on balancing work and family

family_friendly_web_qual.pngThe nature of work and families has changed significantly in the last two decades. It is time for our workplace rules to change.

Recent decades have seen profound changes in the Australian workforce. The majority of Australian families rely on two incomes and many employees juggle unpaid caring work with paid work.

The struggle to balance work and caring needs is an ongoing and serious challenge.

Both men and women should have access to secure, good quality flexible working arrangements. However, our workplace rules haven’t kept up with the changing nature of work and family responsibilities and we see now more than ever a work/life collision.

Workers currently only have a right to request flexible working arrangements. Employers can refuse and employees have no rights to appeal. As a result, the right to request has not successfully provided flexibility for working carers and parents in Australian workplaces.

Millions of families have this work/life collision: juggling the responsibility for parenting young children and/or caring for ill, disabled or ageing family members. Millions of families have need for better workplace rules.

Our workplaces and rules must recognise this and accommodate the reality faced by millions of workers.


The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is running a test case, in the Fair Work Commission (FWC), for a new workplace right for working carers and working parents to temporarily reduce their hours to help them better manage their work and family commitments.

The Family Friendly Work Arrangements Test Case, to be heard by the FWC in December 2017, is a claim for a new Modern Award right to part-time work/reduced hours to help working parents and working carers better balance their work and family commitments. The claim also includes a right to access personal leave for pre-natal appointments.

Working carers are employees caring for a person with a disability, mental or physical illness or who is frail/aged, and working parents are employees caring for a child under school age.

This test case will revisit significant issues related to gender equality, job quality and the intersection of work, care and family in Australia for the first time in more than a decade.


To be successful, the ACTU needs IEU and other union members to fill out the Modern Workplaces survey about the types of caring responsibilities they have in their lives.

The survey is located at www.surveymonkey.com/r/modernworkplaces

It’s important that the ACTU receives responses from all types of workers so the FWC understands all people have caring and parenting responsibilities that, from time to time, require flexible working arrangements.

By sharing your views, you can help build better workplaces for all Australians.

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.