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Wrong way on family sick leave

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John Howard

NEWS RELEASE Member for BennelongShadow Minister for Industrial Relations & Manager of Opposition Business in the House IR 029/94


The Government has chosen the most expensive and least efficient way to accommodate the needs of employees to care for sick family members.

Its intention to support an extra five days of paid leave each year will heavily penalise small businesses and constitute a further disincentive for those businesses to take on more staff.

This is another anti-employment regulation of the Keating government.

Instead of wielding the big stick through a threat to legislate within twelve months if the additional five days leave has not been incorporated into workplace arrangements, the government should make present workplace rules more flexible so that

legitimate needs of employees to look after sick relatives can be met.

The common sense approach is that employees should have time off when a family member is sick in return for making up that time at ordinary rates of pay.

Yet Australia's ridiculously rigid award system prevents such a practical arrangement being easily adopted.

Mandatory overtime and penalty rate provisions mean that five hours taken off during ordinary working hours cannot be traded for five hours work at nights or at weekends without additional cost to employers.

These are the issues which the government should address before supporting a stand and deliver approach by the ACTU on the matter.

Nobody should be fooled. The government's approach will mean that in practice many employees will simply take another five days leave a year on full pay.

The government has gone the wrong way. Instead of piling further regulation onto an already over-regulated structure, it should be loosening the rules to allow such matters to be easily negotiated at the workplace level between employers and employees.