The Senate Select Committee on Work and Care, Chaired by Greens Senator Barbara Pocock, has today released its interim majority report. Evidence from months of hearings and over 100 submissions showed the reforms needed for working carers are so urgent that the committee has released immediate recommendations ahead of the final report.
Recent census data shows that 5 million Australians are combining work with unpaid childcare and/ or providing unpaid assistance to a person with a disability, a long-term health condition or due to old age.
The Government has pledged to make a number of IR reforms, but these will need Greens support in the Senate. The Greens-chaired committee recommendations, supported by Labor, indicate the areas that the Greens will seek action on.
Senate Committee Chair Senator Barbara Pocock and the Greens will be pushing Labor to urgently legislate these key recommendations for fixing the work and care crisis in Australia including reform to the right to request, the right to disconnect, roster justice, lifting the floor of wages, and improving paid parental leave.
Quotes to attribute to Senator Pocock:
“Australia’s work and care system is in crisis. Paid care workers are overworked and underpaid and are leaving the sector in droves. People who balance work and care too often experience unpredictable rosters and pay in inflexible workplaces. Carers and people needing care are paying the price and Australia has fallen behind international standards.
“The agreed Greens and Labor recommendations in this interim report are a fantastic first step to improving the lives of working carers if implemented but carers can't wait years for these improvements. We have the evidence and sector agreement, now it's time to act.
“Women can no longer be expected to have jobs and care for the nation without support. Updating the work system to account for work and care would improve equality, female workforce participation and reduce the gender pay gap.
Right to disconnect - “People should have the right to turn off their phones, block their bosses calls, and switch off their emails when they’re finished work for the day. Millions of Australian workers are working from home, constantly connected to work through their phone or computer. Having the right to disconnect would allow workers to work their contracted hours and switch off afterwards which would improve mental health and family connections.
“We have seen a trend of “Quiet Quitting” born out of this need to disconnect. It's clear our workplace relations system needs updating. Everyone should have the right to a life outside of work.
Right to Request Flexibility - “Australian workers need a right to request that works. An enforceable right to request flexible working arrangements is a key foundation block of a decent work and care system. Right now, Australian workplaces are rigid and inflexible and tipped too far in the employer’s favour. Workers need genuine opportunities to ask for flexibility and for employers to listen and try to accommodate.
Roster Justice - “Millions of Australian workers in areas like retail and hospitality don't know what shift they're working tomorrow. Last minute roster changes make it near impossible to find care arrangements. Roster justice is needed to give workers predictable rosters and certainty of hours.
Paid Parental Leave - “Australia is far behind the international standard of 52 weeks on paid parental leave. The report recommends increasing paid parental leave to 26 weeks as soon as is practicable.
“The Greens are calling for further improvements to the paid parental leave scheme including wage matching up to a cap, encouraging shared care with use it or lose it provisions for partners, including super, and a plan to bring us closer to international standards.
Lifting the floor of wages - “The care economy is in crisis. Thousands of workers are leaving disability, aged and childcare jobs because they are overworked and underpaid. We need to lift pay across the care economy and properly reward working carers.
The Select Committee on Work and Care is at its midpoint with the interim report release. The final report will be released mid-February 2023. Further hearings will shortly be held in Brisbane, regional Queensland, Perth, Albany, and Adelaide.