Senate debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Statements by Senators

Workplace Relations

1:34 pm

Photo of Barbara PocockBarbara Pocock (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

ARBARA POCOCK () (): As Chair of the Select Committee on Work and Care, one issue that has come up repeatedly in our recent hearings around Australia is the way our workplace relations laws are failing those in our community who care for others. We heard a great deal of evidence about the disastrous impact unpredictable hours of work are having on the lives of parents and carers. We also heard personal stories of carers struggling to manage impossible schedules, caught between their boss and their care for children or others.

Let me give you one example. Julie is a single mother who works as a casual cleaner. She had consistent shifts through the first two years she worked for her employer. It was a regular work schedule that allowed her to pick up and drop off her young daughter at child care. Her predictable working hours gave her the certainty that she needed to balance her work with being a sole parent. Without warning, her employer dramatically altered her roster, moved her to a different site and placed her on shifts that meant she could no longer rely on her childcare arrangements. Afraid that she might lose her job, she felt unable to challenge the scheduling changes. When she attempted to use a flexible work arrangement to allow her to care for her daughter, her employer rejected it as in conflict with their business interests.

For decades, flexibility has been spoken of as a silver bullet in our workplaces, a cure-all for working parents and those looking after others. The reality is in many cases flexible rostering has been centred on the needs of the employer rather than those of the worker juggling work and care. As part of the next tranche of industrial relations reform, the government must restore roster justice for workers ensuring that they have predictable, stable rosters with advance notice and consultation on roster changes. Workers like Julie, caring alone for their kids, should not be forced at short notice to make the impossible choice between caring for their child and putting food on the table.


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