Page 1102 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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Firstly, changes in family formation, living arrangements, marital separation and labour force participation, especially maternal labour force participation, mean that, in the majority of families with dependants, all adults are in paid employment. Only one-third of dependent children in couple families and half of those in lone parent families have a stay-at-home parent. At the same time, the proportion of the population requiring care has increased, and it is predicted that this will continue. This has been accompanied by a reduced reliance on institutional care and increasing reliance on community care.

These changes in family life have been accompanied by changes in the way work is organised. In response to competitive pressure, there has been the extension of long hours of work and the introduction of employee-initiated flexibility over working time.

For much of the last century, Australia led the world in fair working time. Almost one-third of full-time employees now work more than 48 hours per week. More than half of these are non-managerial, and a third of those work more than 60 hours per week. Australia has the largest proportion of employees working long hours, according to the OECD. Australia is now the second-longest working time country in the developed world. It is time once again to civilise working time.

Forty-nine per cent of men and 61 per cent of women working more than 45 hours per week say they want to work fewer hours. Fatigue and lack of time for non-work activities, including family, is a huge issue for these workers. At the same time, there has been growth in the evidence which now makes it unambiguously clear that working in excess of an average of 48 hours per week represents probably the largest occupational health and safety risk faced by Australian workers today.

The variation in the number of hours worked gives rise to an unstable and inequitable distribution of work. The unpredictability and instability of hours of work further compounds the risk to the health and safety of workers. Another great inequity is that 60 per cent of overtime is unpaid. Much of the growth in long hours of work and unpaid overtime is due to work intensification caused by reducing staffing levels and increased expectations in many industries, as well as increased employer control through various forms of performance monitoring. For a worker to decide to work fewer hours, base wage rates must be at a level that provides a fair standard of living, without the reliance on overtime. Often this is not the case.

The ACT government has taken the lead in this territory in providing work and family conditions for ACT public sector workers and in providing innovative options for the private sector to improve their work and family conditions. Our new template with the public sector includes excellent conditions in relation to bereavement leave, personal leave, paid maternity leave and parental leave, as well as conditions such as purchased leave, which will enable family members to better structure their working lives. In the private sector we have introduced new payroll tax deduction for employers who extend paid maternity leave provisions to employees.

In our election commitments we committed to look at a range of new incentive schemes. We are currently working with business in the ACT to promote these new policies and ensure the private sector does not miss out on better conditions. As Mr Mulcahy pointed out, we introduced last week a bill to amend the Long Service Leave Act here to ensure

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