Call for working hours to be capped in Australia to improve gender balance

May 29, 2016

Working hours should be more effectively capped at 38 hours a week to make it easier for men to share the caring load in the family home and for women to participate in paid work.
A new report by a national network of 34 academics who specialise in work and family policy is calling for a firmer restriction of working hours to a maximum 38 per week, with the exception of mutually agreed overtime. 
The network, known as the Work + Family Policy Roundtable, has also urged the federal government to impose a regular pattern of hours for casual and part-time workers, with a minimum of four hours of work per shift. 
A new report is calling for a firmer restriction of working hours to a maximum 38 per week so men and women can share ...
A new report is calling for a firmer restriction of working hours to a maximum 38 per week so men and women can share care responsiblities.
The Roundtable's Work, Care and Family Policies 2016 Election Benchmarks also call for paid palliative care leave, domestic violence leave and paid annual leave on a pro-rata basis for casuals. An extension to the right to request flexible working hours to all workers is also recommended along with a right to appeal an employer's refusal of such requests.

Roundtable co-convenor Professor Sara Charlesworth from RMIT University said many Australian women caring for children tended to work short part-time hours.
"We have one of the most gendered and polarised working time regimes in the OECD," she said.
Many Australian men work far longer than 38 hours per week.
Many Australian men work far longer than 38 hours per week.
"When women become mothers they tend to work very short part-time hours. As soon as a man becomes a father his hours of work go up.

"Australian male full-time hours tend to be much longer than the OECD norm."
Professor Charlesworth said Australia had among the longest working hours and many men tended to work far longer than 38 hours per week.
When women have children, many end up working part-time in lower quality jobs. There needed to be a greater balance allowing for women to engage in paid work and men in unpaid care.
"Because everything is so inflexible women will often look for work which allows them to juggle child care," Professor Charlesworth said.
"The rationale for putting a cap or limit on full-time hours is a way of evening out the distribution of paid and unpaid work.
"If you have a two-parent household with care responsibilities, then that limits the total time available for care. Women tend to be the shock absorbers. They are the ones adjusting themselves around what are often the fixed long hours of their partner." 
The report to be released on Monday says properly enforced workplace regulation is needed to support carers who work.
The report says many worker-carers, mainly women, undertake part-time or casual work as a strategy to reconcile work and care – 46 per cent of female employees work part-time and more than half of all employees working part-time are employed on a casual basis.
"These jobs do not have the same security and predictability as full-time employment for which many women pay a high price: job insecurity, low life-time workforce participation and income, including in retirement," the report says.
"Restructuring of employment regulation to ensure recognition, support and decent working conditions for working-carers – no matter who their employer or what their employment status – is a critical long-term goal."
A report by UBS released last week found that Sydneysiders worked an average of 1,829 hours per year and had 24 paid vacation days. This compared to European countries including Paris which had the fewest working hours – 1,604 per year and 29 paid vacation days.
Sydney was ranked 38th behind Hong Kong in first place for having the longest working hours – 2606 and 17 paid vacation days.

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