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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1453

Workplace Relations


Mr SYMON (Deakin) (14:04): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, how is the government helping to ensure Australian workplaces can meet the needs of modern families?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:04): I thank the member for Deakin for his question. I know his part of Melbourne well and I know that his part of Melbourne is full of families who do face the pressures of juggling modern life. They are families where dad works, where overwhelmingly mum works too, where they are putting together a combination of jobs—a full-time job, a part-time job, two full-time jobs—in order to help families make ends meet. That does put real pressure on. What modern families need are modern workplaces which help them balance work and family life.

We understand that we do not live in a world of 'nine to five' work, with a parent at home. That means that the pressure can be there, when you have to care for the kids, when you have to make arrangements for ageing parents and their care, and when you are coming back to work after having had a child. That is why across this week we have announced a new series of policies to help families with these modern pressures. We have specifically said that we will extend the National Employment Standards—part of the system we put into place to get rid of the hated Work Choices—to provide the right to request flexible work arrangements for more workers, for carers, for mature-age workers, for workers with school-age children and those experiencing or caring for those undergoing domestic violence or recovering from it.

We will also make it clear to employers and employees how to reasonably deal with these requests. We are making it easier for mums who are returning to work, having had a child, to request part-time work arrangements so that they do not have to choose between work and family and so that it can be easier to balance, putting the two together. We are better protecting mums-to-be by ensuring that they can get transferred to a safe job, whether or not they have been with their employer for a year. We are also boosting protections for workers against having their rosters and hours of work unexpectedly changed. People obviously organise their lives—their child care, their pick-up of the kids from school, the help that they provide aged parents—around their roster and all of these arrangements can be disrupted by an unexpected change. And we are addressing the modern challenge of workplace bullying. Too many young people in particular have lived with this burden of bullying, not knowing who to go to. We will make sure that the industrial umpire is there to help them.

During the week to come we will be outlining our plan for Australian jobs, but we will always ensure that workplaces have fair and decent working conditions, and we have added to that fairness and that decency this week.