ACCI and sex commissioner clash on work and family decision

News

ACCI and sex commissioner clash on work and family decision

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) does not think the AIRC decision on work and family issues needs to be put into law, but the federal sex discrimination commissioner, Pru Goward, says it should.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) does not think the AIRC decision on work and family issues needs to be put into law, but the federal sex discrimination commissioner, Pru Goward, says it should.

The Industrial Relations Commission has ruled that workers have the right to request up to 24 months of unpaid parental leave from their employer.

Parents will also be able to ask to return to work on a part-time basis until their child reaches school age.

But Prime Minister John Howard has refused to guarantee the changes will be contained in the Government’s planned industrial relations legislation. 

ACCI position

ACCI  has called on policy makers to ‘get the facts straight’ when debating whether the AIRC decision should be incorporated in proposed federal legislated standards.

‘It is wrong to think that the Government has to legislate the decision in order to “put it into law” and employers are keen to debunk that myth,’ said Peter Hendy, ACCI Chief Executive.

‘Not including the ‘right to request’ in a legislated standard does not mean that the government would be ignoring the decision or that it would not have lawful effect.

‘The AIRC, not the Government, gives legal effect to the decision by making orders varying its awards. Legislating or not legislating the decision does not change award rights and obligations one iota.’

Hendy said there are ‘good and rational reasons’ why the decision should not be added to the legislated standards.

‘Firstly, employees will have access to it via the award safety net,’ he said.

Hendy said the Commission decision will vary federal awards and the Government’s proposed IR changes retain federal awards and the rights and obligations they create.

‘Secondly, if legislated, it would force workplaces where employers and employees agree that the new rights are not realistic, to still specify in their agreements the right to request them,’ he said.

‘It is not rational to force parties to put in agreements a right to request something which it is agreed by the parties will not be able to be given. To do so is red tape and more - it is misleading current and future employees.

‘If we are to have a debate about whether this ‘right to request’ should be forced into workplace agreements let us have it. But that, and that alone, is what the debate about making it a legislated standard is about.’

Goward's position

However Pru Goward, says the Federal Government should enshrine new parental leave provisions in law.

She says parents will find it difficult to find balance in their lives unless the new workplace rights are drafted into law.

‘Without there being a requirement that the boss consider a request for part-time work, it does make it harder for families to balance their work and family lives,’ Goward said.

‘It means women either dropping out of the work force altogether or taking full-time work that doesn’t suit their children, doesn’t suit their parents, doesn’t suit them or equally their husbands, fathers, it doesn’t suit them either.’

Goward says the commission’s decision is in line with the Government’s concerns about work life balance and says it is not a big thing to put it into law.

‘You would hope they would draft it into law,’ she said. 

‘Obviously it’s only a requirement that employers consider a request; it doesn’t mean they have to accede to a request and it’s a fairly conservative, cautious finding by the Industrial Relations Commission. 

‘What we should take heart from is that the employer groups have not opposed it.’  

Support for IRC

Federal Opposition leader Kim Beazley has also called on the Prime Minister to support the IRC ruling. 

Family First Senator Steven Fielding has thrown his support behind the IRC’s parental leave ruling, but would not be drawn on whether it should be enshrined in the Government’s minimum working conditions. 

Related

Work and family test case - flexible parental leave by agreement 

 

Post details