Employees face carer knockback

The West Australian, 28 August 2017

Employers will be forced to pay workers full superannuation entitlements following crackdown on legal loophole.

About one in four employees is denied requests for reduced work hours to care for loved ones, prompting union calls for a new type of minimum employment standard.

A survey of 1100 WA workers by UnionsWA and the Australian Council of Trade Unions showed more than 80 per cent of workers currently have or have previously had caring duties.

But more than one-third are unable to care for their loved ones because their request is refused or because they believe there is no point in even asking for the unpaid time off.

UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat said it and the ACTU would run a national campaign to ensure all workers were allowed to cut their work hours by having this type of unpaid leave enshrined in the national minimum employment standards.

“Too many working people live in fear, afraid to ask their employer to reduce their working hours so they can care for loved ones,” Ms Hammat said.

“The case being led by unions in the Fair Work Commission will create, for the first time, a right to reduced hours of work in order to meet care needs.”

The National Employment Standards provide workers 10 days of paid carers leave and two consecutive days of unpaid carers leave whenever an immediate family member is sick.

But UnionsWA said that the new standard it was seeking was different because it could involve permanently reduced hours, such as one day off every week or fortnight.

“The pressures (of carers) led to a third of all respondents at some point needing to ask an employer for reduced hours of work in order to cope with demands for the care of loved ones,” Ms Hammat said.

“However, more than a quarter of respondents that asked for reduced work hours had that request rejected by their employer.

“An additional 8.4 per cent of all survey respondents reported that while they needed reduced hours of work to attend to care responsibilities, they did not ask their employer.”

The reasons for not asking included a fear of the consequences for 22 per cent of those surveyed and assumptions the request would be denied for 26 per cent.