Better conditions for women:

the case, the facts and how you can help

The ACTU on behalf of all unions and their members is seeking to improve work/life balance by improving conditions.

Women’s rights at work and participation in the workforce are a major part of this campaign.

In this context the ACTU has made an application to vary all federal awards to include new entitlements:

  • For employees during pregnancy and on return to work from parental leave, and
  • For employees experiencing family and domestic violence.

ACTU Officer Belinda Tkalcevic (pictured) attended an IEUA Women and Equity Committee just before International Women’s Day to discuss these issues.

A summary of the major improvements we are seeking:

  • in respect of pregnant employees changes to strengthen their rights to a safe workplace
  • two days paid leave for prospective parents to attend appointments associated with pre-natal, pre-adoption or permanent care orders
  • a right to return from parental leave to the position you held previously
  • an enforceable right to return to work part-time, and
  • 10 days paid domestic violence leave.

Why is this happening now?

Every four years basic employment conditions in awards are reviewed. Unions and employers can seek to vary existing entitlements. Employers for example are seeking to reduce penalty rates as part of this process.

Where is the action?

These cases are being heard and determined by the Fair Work Commission (the federal ‘independent umpire’).

How long will it take?

The Commission’s schedule calls for a decision before June/July next year.

What position have employers taken on the application?

All the major employer bodies oppose the unions’ claim. They have sought to prevent it even being heard by challenging the Commission’s right to do so. In the event that these arguments fail they still unilaterally oppose any improvements.

How can members help?

The core of any case is the weight of first hand evidence. The IEU has committed to assisting by providing evidence from its members.

We simply want to hear from you if you can answer ‘yes’ to any element of the questions below.

Has your current or any previous employer unreasonably refused to:

  • permit you to return to work part-time from parental leave?
  • permit you to return to the position you held before you went on parental leave
  • discuss with you your request for part-time work?
  • give you reasons for this refusal or any basis for their decision?
  • refused your request on the basis that it is an inherent quality of the position it be filled on a full-time basis, and
  • take into account your circumstances and/or job role?

Have you encountered difficulties at work associated with experiencing family or domestic violence?

Have you experienced difficulties obtaining leave to attend legal proceedings, counselling, medical or legal appointments, relocation, the making of safety arrangements or any other activity associated with the experience of family and domestic violence?

IEU members are asked to contact Women’s Officer Pam Smith with their stories.