Work +Family Policy Roundtable election benchmarks 2013

The Work+ Policy Roundtable is a network of 30 academics from 18 universities and research institutions with expertise on work, care and family policy. Further information about the Roundtable is available on the website at www.workandfamilypolicyroundtable.org.

These Benchmarks were developed by the Roundtable at a two-day research workshop supported by the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) in November 2012. Recommendations in relation to eight policy areas highlight key issues associated with the struggle to manage the demands of paid work and family and community responsibilities.

Accessible, affordable, flexible, quality childcare

The Roundtable recommends:

  1. Increasing direct Australian Government funding to approved services to enable them to meet the increased wages and other costs associated with the National Quality Framework (NQF);
  2. Improving pay and conditions for all ECEC staff, including pay parity for teachers;
  3. Adopting the Henry Tax Review recommendations for combining the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate and reducing the withdrawal rate to ensure that the greatest level of assistance is directed to families in greatest need;
  4. Conducting an inquiry into the development of a national model of funding for an integrated, high quality, flexible and equitable ECEC system that meets the needs of contemporary families and workplaces; and
  5. Evaluating the implementation of universal provision of 15 hours of preschool for all children in the year before they enter school with a view to progressively extending guaranteed access to high quality care and education to 3 year old children and then to 2 year old children.

Paid parental leave

The Roundtable recommends:

  1. Extending the Australian Government funded PLP [Paid parental leave] DaPP [Dad and partner pay] to 52 weeks of shared/paid parental leave;
  2. Designating up to 12 weeks of the 52 weeks PLP as DaPP on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis;
  3. Encouraging employers to top up the Australian Government funded PLP to full replacement; earnings (as some already do), consistent with payment rates applying to other forms of paid leave;
  4. Removing the mismatch in eligibility in the NES to allow employees who have not been employed with the same organisation for more than 12 months to have access to unpaid leave for the purposes of receiving PLP and/or DaPP;
  5. Amending legislation so that pregnant employees can transfer to safe work if necessary, without a 12 month service requirement or the requirement for them to have completed paperwork applying for parental leave;
  6. More effective enforcement of the ‘return to work’ guarantee in the NES [National employment standards] unpaid parental leave provisions and, where a pregnant worker loses her job, introducing a presumption of discrimination unless demonstrated otherwise by the employer; and
  7. Ensuring that PLP and DaPP include superannuation contributions.

Job security, flexibility and working time

The Roundtable recommends:

  1. Making the NES more inclusive by extending paid annual leave to casual employees on a pro-rata basis and providing a separate allocation of carers leave to all employees;
  2. Increasing job security for working carers by introducing measures to support casual workers moving to an ongoing contract after a certain period of employment;
  3. Establishing firm working time minima in all modern awards, including a minimum engagement of 3 hours for casual workers and requiring written agreement to a regular pattern of hours and adequate notice of changes to hours for part-time workers;
  4. Enhancing the operation and uptake of the NES right to request flexible work by:
        • Widening coverage to all employees regardless of caring responsibilities
            • Removing the 12 month service requirement for eligibility
            • Ensuring that employers are obligated to reasonably accommodate requests for flexible work by providing a right to appeal refusals as applies to other NES
            • Developing and disseminating detailed guidance material on the RTR and initiating a Fair Work Ombudsman campaign to raise awareness of this right; and
  5. Protecting workers against discrimination on the basis of their part-time status in line with Australia’s international law obligations under ILO Convention 175.

Pay equity

The Roundtable recommends:

  1. The Australian Government formally respond to the Making it Fair report, to address the historical undervaluing of women’s work particularly in ‘caring’ jobs;
  2. Establishing a Pay Equity Unit to address pay equity by establishing information and advisory mechanisms for job applicants (or those renewing contracts), and measures to encourage all employers to narrow the pay gap;
  3. Ensuring that the Gender Equality Indicators established as part of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 are designed effectively to collect data on overall remuneration gaps by occupation, part-time, full-time and contract status, and establish industry-specific benchmarks that will achieve real advances in gender pay equity; and
  4. Ensuring the effective application of the equal remuneration principles in the Fair Work Act 2009 to address systemic inequalities in modern awards and to reduce differences between male-dominated and female-dominated awards in such areas as the definition of ordinary hours and the payment of penalty rates.

Workforce participation and the tax transfer system

The Roundtable recommends:

  1. Reviewing effective marginal tax rates and their impact on women’s workforce participation;
  2. Reviewing the Newstart payment levels to ensure their adequacy;
  3. Providing a payment to sole parents with children in primary school to help ensure adequate income and parental time to meet children’s needs;
  4. Reducing the withdrawal rates on most family related benefits; and
  5. Ensuring that income support recipients, especially sole parents, have access to secure, predictable, flexible and adequate hours of work in quality jobs, and to affordable care services.

Superannuation and retirement savings

The Roundtable recommends:

  1. Investigating the introduction of ‘carer credits’ into superannuation accounts for those with significant care responsibilities;
  2. Implementing the Henry Tax Review recommendations on taxation of superannuation contributions, as part of a more equitable and neutral approach to superannuation reform;
  3. Implementing all recommendations in this document related to income replacement and superannuation payment for paid parental leave, gender pay equity, taxation and transfers;
  4. Maintaining the age pension to reflect relativities with average earnings and work-related benefits; and
  5. Removing the $450 per month minimum earning requirement for payment of employer superannuation contributions.

Work and care for an aging Australia

The Roundtable recommends:

  1. Extending current respite services for the aged and chronically ill to be available for regular and longer periods of time rather than only in emergencies. This would include long day care options;
  2. Introducing a new paid leave provision for employees who provide palliative care for a family member or other dependant; and
  3. the right to request flexibility to all employees (see: Job Security,Flexibility and Working Time recommendation).

Institutional support and leadership for work and care

The Roundtable recommends:

  1. Increasing public capacity to support and encourage workplace leadership that specifically addresses work, care and family challenges, and the increasing feminisation of the workforce, including leadership to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination and increase flexibility that supports working carers;
  2. Establishing federal and state departments of Work, Life and Community responsible for the overarching design and implementation of an equitable Australian work and care and family regime; and
  3. Ensuring the Australian Government undertakes systematic research about work, care and family policy challenges facing Australia; and that funding is provided to maintain existing surveys and data sets and research capacity to investigate changes at work and in Australian households.

See the benchmarks for more detail.

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