Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Women working flexibly more productive: Study

A new report backs what many women working flexibly and part time already know: that they waste less time at work than their full time colleagues – just 11.1% compared to the 14.5% of work hours wasted by the general population.

And getting more out of these productive women could save Australia and New Zealand at least $1.4 billion in wasted wages, according to the EY and Chief Executive Women report released today.

Based on range of different studies including figures obtained from the November 2012 EY Productivity Pulse and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the report identifies what low female workforce participation is costing the economy and what can be done to help.

It finds that with 42.2% of women in the workforce working part time compared to just 13.5% of men, a significant productivity boost is being achieved with those flexible workers found to be wasting less time than their full time counterparts.

But too few organisations are recognising this, according to the report authors. "Over the last decade, while there have been some gains in female workforce participation rates, a lot more needs to be done to ensure the waste doesn't continue," EY advisory partner Amy Poynton said in a statement with the report.

"When you consider that female workforce participation has only increased by 4% over the past decade to 65%, while male participation is currently at 79%, and you look at that in the context of the return of investment in educating women and the potential shortfall of retirement savings for women, it's quite an alarming picture."

The report also identifies a lack of sufficient superannuation for women – finding 38% of women have no superannuation at all – and puts an $8 billion figure on the investment in education that's being wasted by women not transitioning to full time employment.

It also finds that women are missing out on our highest paying growth industries, given they're qualifying for careers in health, social services and education which are lower paid but offer better flexible work options.

The six-monthly EY Pulse survey measures more than 2,100 Australian workers on their productivity and the value of work they do across all industry sectors.

Download the full report.

mums@work | 24.07.13
Image: Free Digital Images/Marin

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What to expect when you’re expecting ... Discrimination?

The Australian Human Rights Commission has been asked by the Australian Government to undertake research into the prevalence and nature of discrimination against employees who are pregnant and people returning to work after parental leave. Diversity Council Australia congratulates the Government on addressing this important issue and looks forward to contributing to the research on behalf of its members.
Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO, said anecdotal evidence suggests such discrimination is still a real problem.

“Despite federal law prohibiting pregnancy discrimination having been in force for nearly 30 years, we still hear horror stories of women being sacked or made redundant whilst pregnant, on parental leave or soon after their return to work. It’s also common to hear that when parents do return to work, they find their role has been downgraded or they are no longer given quality work or development opportunities, especially if they request a return to more flexible working arrangements.
“DCA’s Working for the Future national survey of Australian workers found that care-givers were consistently rated higher on management capability than their non-care-giving colleagues. Discriminating against these workers is clearly nonsensical and represents a waste of talent, not to mention having major consequences for these women and their families,” said Ms Young.

The Commission’s Pregnant and Productive research was more than ten years ago so it’s timely to re-examine the issue through this new research, added Ms Young.
“A full investigation examining the current extent of the problem – and one which has bipartisan support – is very much needed. It is critical to establish an evidence base which identifies the prevalence of this type of discrimination and allows proper analysis of the adequacy of the current legal and policy responses, best practice to be identified and future progress to be monitored.

“Leading employers have long recognised the benefits of pro-actively preventing this type of workplace discrimination and all employers can learn from their approaches. We will ensure that DCA members have the opportunity to have their say on this important area through the consultation process,” said Ms Young.
The Commission will report on the research in May 2014 and DCA will be in touch with members soon about how you can be involved.

mums@work | 23.07.13
Image: Free Digital Photos/Ambro

Monday, July 22, 2013

Back to work after extended time out

How to successfully get back into it

For many reasons women who initially choose to or have needed to stay at home after having kids find themselves wanting to re-enter the workforce and pick up their careers or start a whole new one several years later, for example when the kids are all at school.

Re-entering the workforce after a long time out can obviously present many problems and concerns for women, such as lack of confidence and self-belief and worries about coping with the parenting and work juggle. It's hard enough going back to work after the usual 6-12 months maternity leave, let alone when you've been out for 3, 4 or more years.

Research from the UK in 2012 showed that women returning to work as new mothers were likely to take jobs they were overqualified for and under utilised in because low occupational, low paid areas offer the best deal in terms of part-time and flexible work.

The result is a talented pool of women working well beneath their career ladder capability. And that's OK, as long as you're happy with that situation.

Our survey revealed that 53% of women said their careers were less important and less of a priority after having kids, and that's pretty normal, although it doesn't mean that you don't want to progress. However, the stigma of being a mother, and worse, a mother who has been out of the loop for a long time, can often be or at least seem like a huge barrier to overcome.

The main things you must be absolutely sure of when tackling the return to work is that you want to do it and for the right reasons. There's nothing more unappealing to a potential employer than someone who's a bit non-committal or unsure. It will lead to very awkward interviews and unlikely to lead to a job.

The other thing to remember is to assess the jobs you want to do, can do and would ultimately be happy in. You don't want to find yourself talking your way into a job you don't really want because you're so desperate to get anything. You will be miserable in a very short time so you may as well try to get it right.

Being sure of your relevance for a job is half the battle in interviews. You come across as being much more capable and confident when you're not trying to convince yourself at the same time as an employer!

Use an agency. They can quickly assess your skills and help you rework your CV to make the most of your potential. They also already have the ears of the employers. It's much easier for them to argue your suitability for a job, pitch you properly and explain that despite having had some time out, you are still a very valid candidate.

Holly Whale, former recruitment consultant, now personal organizer is a great example of someone who both understands going back to work from an employer's perspective and also about retraining and going back to work as a mother.

"How long is too long is a bit like asking: "how long is a piece of string", says Holly. "As a female recruitment consultant with my own kids, I am probably more lenient than most. A male recruitment consultant working in a cut-throat industry such as advertising or banking would most likely take a different view".

Holly believes it also depends on the level of the role. For example, one would expect that a woman at a reasonably high level in, say, finance, would not have too much time off work.

"Often these candidates go back after only a few months and work between kids with a full-time nanny at home. With this level of candidate, I would say that after two years, it would start to get tricky to explain the absence in the workplace: 18 months to two years would most likely be a maximum. In some of the 'softer' industries like marketing and PR, a four-year break wouldn't be unacceptable", Holly believes.

These days the larger companies are getting more and more family-friendly. Existing employees who've worked there for some time before having kids have a high chance of being given a flexible role (e.g. four days a week) on returning from maternity leave.

There is a high success rate in this case in terms of settling back in, because she is already used to the company and the role. Holly Whale says she has heard plenty of horror stories about mums starting a new role part-time or job sharing and finding it really tough.

"In my experience, she says, the majority of women change tack after having a baby. They either take a big chunk of time off and then try to go back to the same industry, but part-time and with less responsibility, or they actually just change careers altogether, like I did".

Return to Work website MyFuture has some great advice for women returning to work after babies including some of the following:

Take the first steps, which include:

  • Taking stock of skills you have acquired while you've been a stay at home mum, e.g. organisation, planning and multi-tasking. There is no one on the planet more adept at multi-tasking than a mum!

  • Taking time to update your skills or qualifications – e.g. checking your computer program knowledge is up-to-date, updating any professional or industry qualifications, exams or tests

  • Tackling the issue of child care and working out arrangements for your children on a daily basis, after school, if they're sick, during the holidays

  • Thinking about your realistic abilities to commit to work and how you will juggle work and parenting, practically. Talk to your working mother friends and get their advice on how to manage it successfully.

Know what you want in a job. Are you looking for:

  • Full-time or part-time work

  • Paid employment or work in the voluntary sector

  • Work in a familiar field or in a new area

  • The opportunity to retrain?

Is your long-term plan realistic and achievable? Are you able to go for your ultimate job now, or should you start off with something easier, just to prove to yourself that you can land a job and cope with working life?

Take a look at your skills. What skills do you have?
What work can you do now, given your current skills? Skills are activities that you can do right now. The average person has between 500 and 800 skills. You will need to identify only 5–10 skills for an employer. You might need to re-package your existing skills to make them marketable.

  • Job-specific skills are skills required to complete a job related activity like cleaning, computer programming or record keeping. These are also called 'hard' skills.

  • Self-management skills are those that are required in almost all jobs. These ‘soft' skills include being punctual, dependable, independent and flexible.

Are you looking for a completely new career? What could that be?
For this you'll need to have assessed your own values, interests, strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, personal resources, and goals. You will also need to research and understand as much as you can about your particular chosen area, so that you can find out what work opportunities are available to you, and what you have to do to find a job doing the work you want to do. To do this you can read about it, attend seminars, enrol in courses, network and apply for work experience.

Set realistic career goals if you want the best chance of getting a job and doing well. Don't set your sights too high. You may quickly find yourself out of your depth and miserable.

Set target dates, too, so that you've got something to look forward to at a given time. On average, short-term goals should be achievable within about a year, medium-term goals within three years and long-term goals within five years.

When setting your goals, note down everything you will need to do to achieve each goal. Your short-term goals will include jobs that you can take on now, given your current level of skills.

Is your next job a survival job, an entry-level job, a transitional or a dream job?
This is a very personal judgment; one person's survival job may be another's ultimate dream. But here is a rough guide to the definitions:

  • Survival jobs are not even in the career field you're interested in, but they're useful for immediate short-term employment. They earn you money while you study or train or look for a better job. Aim to move away from a survival job quickly, on towards a job that interests and challenges you: your dream job.

  • Entry-level jobs allow you to begin a career path within your career field. The level at which you enter a career field depends on your experience and education, and on the state of the industry and the local job market. All industries offer entry-level positions.

  • Transitional jobs move you from an entry-level job towards your dream job. These take you a step further in your field of interest and teach you the skills you need for your dream job.

  • Dream jobs give you a sense of fulfillment. They utilise your gifts and talents rather than your skills, and they align with your passions and values.

All this seems rather daunting in itself. It doesn't have to be if you're realistic, certain, dedicated and honest about your abilities and what you want. Ask yourself the following questions. You need to be able to answer these to have the best chance in an interview:

  • Can I do the job?

  • Am I motivated to do the job?

  • Do I present myself as being dependable?

  • Do I fit the image and attitude the company is looking for?

  • Am I eager to learn and extend my skills?

If you can answer all these questions, and present yourself confidently, but not over-confidently, then chances are you'll be just as much in the running as the next person, if not more so.

Good luck.

mums@work | 22.07.13
Source and image:

More cost of living support for millions of Australians

Australian households are getting another budget boost with the next round of household assistance payments arriving in bank accounts from today.

About 1.7 million families and about 370,000 young people and students will start receiving extra money through Labor’s Household Assistance Package, to help with everyday expenses and to meet the modest impact of the carbon price.

Families receiving Family Tax Benefit Part A will start receiving their fortnightly Clean Energy Supplement, worth up to $113 a year per child.

Families receiving Family Tax Benefit Part B will also start receiving a fortnightly Clean Energy Supplement, worth up to $69 a year.

After the Clean Energy Supplement and regular indexation increases, the total maximum rates of Family Tax Benefit Part A will increase by:

  • $153.30 a year per child under 13, to $5,303.45 a year;

  • $200.75 a year per child aged between 13 and 15, to $6,679.50 a year; and

  • $200.75 a year per child aged between 16 and 19 attending school, to $6,679.50 a year.

The rate of Family Tax Benefit Part B will increase by:

  • $124.10 a year where the youngest child is aged under five, to $4,241.30 a year; and

  • $91.25 a year where the youngest child is aged between five and 18, to $3,069.65 a year.

Also this week, eligible students and young people in training will begin receiving their second lump sum Clean Energy Advance payment, worth up to $130, before receiving their regular Clean Energy Supplement from January 2014.

Federal Labor is delivering extra support under the Household Assistance Package to families, pensioners, self-funded retirees, students and jobseekers because we understand many Australians are feeling the pinch.

Tony Abbott and the Opposition don’t understand the cost of living pressures that many households face. That’s why they voted against the Household Assistance Package and against this extra support for millions of Australians. 

Only Labor will keep delivering for low and middle income Australians.

Certain pension thresholds and income and asset test free areas will also be increased in line with indexation from today, meaning more than 1.2 million part pensioners will be able to earn more income or own more assets before their pension is reduced.

Full details of all Household Assistance Package payments can be found at:

Full details of all rates and thresholds to be indexed from today can be found at:

mums@work | 2207.13
Image: Free Digital Images/Photostock

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How employers can better manage maternity leave and support working mums

In terms of OECD countries, sadly Australia is still far from taking the lead when it comes to supporting pregnant women in the workplace. When Australian women reach the ages of 25 to 44, their participation in the workforce drops significantly. Many working mums don't feel supported at work or that their needs are recognised.

The poor management of maternity leave is a key factor contributing to the loss of female talent in Australian business. With one in four women stating they return to work after maternity leave 'because they are afraid not to' (ABS), it is clear there needs to be greater efforts taken to streamline the maternity leave process and motivate women to return to work following such leave.

Women already face challenges regarding returning to work, such as emotional guilt at leaving a new baby, unconscious bias by others against mothers, a lack of acceptance of flexible or part-time working arrangements and the cost of childcare. It is important that maternity leave be managed effectively so it doesn't add a greater burden on returning mothers.

Communication breakdown
According to the ABS, on average women spend eight months on maternity leave. Throughout this time many of these women have very little contact with their employer. In fact, communication tends to be poor on both ends.

Eight months is a long period of time to be in the dark about what is happening in your workplace – especially if the woman taking the time out is a project leader or has managerial responsibilities. A business can change significantly within a day, let alone two-thirds of a year.

Not only can this breakdown in communication be alienating for the employee, the employee's professional and social networks can become disconnected, and the chances for a streamlined return to work are diminished.

Talk it up
Women should be kept well informed and engaged while on maternity leave. This should be done in a way that also encourages ongoing dialogue. This isn't just the responsibility of employers. Women planning to take maternity leave should start the conversation about their maternity leave needs and goals before leaving the workplace. For example, some women may want to receive a monthly update or be consulted on big decisions. Unless women ask for communication throughout this period, it is likely their employer will assume they want to be left alone.

Keeping women in the loop is paramount to a successful maternity leave absence and return to work. If women are kept secure in the knowledge there is support and continued career growth opportunities, then the benefits will be far reaching, for the individual and the organisation. There are several benefits if women return to their place of employment following maternity leave:
  1. The 'loyalty spin off', where employee loyalty is improved, affects all women in an organisation, not just those returning to work;
  2. Knowledge and corporate memory can be more effectively retained;
  3. Recruitment and re-training costs are able to be contained;
  4. Job sharing/secondment that occurred during the leave can be used as a tool on return.
End benefits
It comes back to open and honest communication. Regular newsletters, catch ups and email communication are ways for both sides to feel engaged and informed. Employers should be open about workplace decisions, and women on maternity leave should continue to participate and stay engaged when possible. Coaching and mentoring are only going to give strength to a desire to return to work.

These are not expensive strategies and they are not hard to implement. A healthy, progressive career path for working mums is well within reach.
/ Jul 16, 2013 8:04AM
Source: Women's Agenda

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Five reasons you need this plan more than a birth plan

In those exhausting last weeks of pregnancy, many pregnant women carefully tuck a birth plan in their hospital bag, or jot down a few notes on what they do and don’t want during labour and birth. And those who don’t actually write one will often think about what they’d like to happen anyway. 

But perhaps there’s another plan you should be writing after seeing that second line on a pregnancy test – a career plan.

Like a birth plan, a career plan can be a useful tool for gathering the right information, thinking through potential issues, and making decisions about your preferences. It can be prepared in a similar way to a birth plan, by simply recording your preferences under relevant headings.

So make a career plan and keep it handy; here are five reasons why it might be even more useful than a birth plan.

It will empower you

Leave, pay, finances and access to flexible work options: a career plan will force you to take a good look at all these things now. You can use all this to help you decide how you want your career to progress (or not) over the next few years.

Emma Walsh, human resources professional and director of mums@work, says there are a few things mums-to-be should consider before going on maternity leave.

“Far too many women think, ‘I’m going on leave on this date, I’ll wait until my manager tells me what to do with my job’,” she says. “Too many women take a backseat in the process.”

Emma suggests that women initiate discussions with their manager after asking themselves a few vital questions, such as, “How would I like to see this transition happen? What is my recommendation for how my job can be done when I’m not here? How would I like to keep in touch when I’m away? What other roles within the organisation are available if the role I’m currently in isn’t suitable [post-baby]? How could my role be redefined as part-time?”

It’s a tool for transformation

When preparing a career plan, you may find yourself questioning whether you really want to return to your current job at all. Perhaps you haven’t been enjoying the role, or the organisation you’re working for isn’t particularly family-friendly.

Emma points out that these feelings are likely to be compounded once a baby arrives. “I don’t think there are many mothers who want to leave their children in the care of someone else, who they pay money to, to go along to a job they loathe – not if they don’t have to,” she says.

Emma sees parental leave as an ideal opportunity for women to re-evaluate what’s important to them, and to re-skill or retrain. She says it’s possible to successfully redefine your career during parental leave, and to slot straight into a more suitable position when you return to the workforce.


You’ll have it long after your baby’s birth

The amount of time you spend thinking about childbirth will, luckily, be completely disproportionate to the amount of time you actually spend in the delivery suite. The day of your child’s birth will be an action-packed day, no doubt. But it will be the photos and memories you’ll pull out long after that day, not your birth plan.

Your career, on the other hand, is a work in progress, and you’re likely to have several decades of your working life left to navigate after the birth. The most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that women give birth at the average age of 30, while the average age of intended retirement for women is 62 years. So it’s a good idea to think about where you want to be, career-wise, in the next five, 10 and 20 years when preparing your plan.

It’s easily updated

When you’re rethinking your stance on epidurals during a long labour, or you’re being wheeled to theatre for an emergency c-section, there’s no time to update your birth plan (though the thought of ripping it up may cross your mind!). When it comes to your career, however, you’ll have the time to update and modify your plan as your needs and priorities change – or even if you just have a change of heart once your baby arrives.

Plan on fewer regrets

When asked about regrets, mothers with adult children commonly cite either spending too much time at work when their children were young, or neglecting their career in favour of caring for their children. As distant as it may seem when you’re first preparing your plan, your baby won’t always be the tiny, dependent creature that first arrives in your world; it’s worth thinking about how you want to balance your future work and home life even now, when they’re still this small.  

If you’ve prepared a career plan, you’ve at least put some careful thought and planning into these tricky issues of balance, rather than taking a more ad hoc approach as the years pass. And perhaps, as thoughts of birth plans are replaced with the dilemmas of teething, toileting, schooling and more, a career plan will mean that you can look back on it all with fewer regrets.

For more discussion about being a working parent, check out the Essential Baby forum

mums@work | 11.07.13

Family-friendly changes are in force now

Unlike the bullying amendments, family friendly changes to the Act have already taken affect.

Starting this month, HR managers need to ensure their systems, policies and procedures incorporate a number of extensions to existing flexible work requirements, Calderone says. 
The family-friendly changes mean:

  • pregnant women can transfer to a safe job even if they haven't worked for their employer for 12 months (and if there is no safe job, they are entitled to unpaid leave even if they aren't entitled to paid parental leave);

  • employees can take special maternity leave without it reducing the amount of unpaid parental leave they can take;

  • couples can take up to eight weeks' unpaid parental leave at the same time (increasing from three weeks), and can take it in separate periods - for example, two periods of two weeks; and

  • more groups of employees now have the right to request flexible working arrangements, including employees with caring responsibilities, parents or guardians of children that are school age or younger, employees with disability, employees who are 55 years or older, and employees who are experiencing family violence or supporting a family or household member who is.
A positive change for employers is the provision of further guidance on the reasonable grounds upon which they can refuse flexible work requests, Calderone says. 
"While they're entirely consistent with the grounds employers have been using, it's certainly more comforting to [reference] a bullet point in the legislation."

The legislation's non-exhaustive list of "reasonable business grounds" to refuse a flexible work request includes:

  • the new working arrangements would be too costly for the employer;

  • there is no capacity to change the working arrangements of other employees to accommodate the request;

  • it would be impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees or hire new employees;

  • new working arrangements would be likely to result in significant loss in efficiency/productivity; or
  • new working arrangements would be likely to result in significant negative impact on customer service.

  • mums@work | 11.07.13
    Image: Free Digital Images/David Castillo Dominici

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vaccination schedule update

From July 1 2013, the vaccine schedule for pre-schoolers will include Varicella (chickenpox) for the first time and also two new meningitis shots. Children who are not up to date with their vaccines* will not be allowed to enrol in child care centres.

Recently we ran an article on the debate over vaccinations and whether children should be allowed to attend child care without them. It seems that overwhelmingly people are in favour of compulsory vaccination with 89% who took part in a poll by SBS saying they should be compulsory.

The Age reported that the National Health Performance Authority had found 70,000 children were not fully immunised in Australia, and following Bills introduced into state parliaments, it is now the law in most states, or will shortly be becoming so, for all children to be up to date with their vaccines before enroling in formal child care.

Children who haven't had their shots won't be able to attend child care, and centres will be fined if they don't hold proof of a child's vaccination status under a crackdown by the NSW government.

Not only will the lack of proof of immunisation prevent children enrolling in child care and school, but the vaccines are now required in order to receive Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement and government childcare payments. So there's a definite financial incentive to make sure you don't forget.

While some parents reject the scientific evidence and elect not to immunise their children, the vast majority are simply forgetting so the onus is on both parents and child care operators to make sure that these children get their shots before attending child care, and then of course, before they start school.

Operators could face fines of $4,000 if inspectors discover children in their care who don't have proof of vaccination. Although a ridiculous loophole allows parents to object to vaccinations on philosophical, religious or medical grounds.

These parents however will need to provide a certificate from their GP or an immunisation nurse after undergoing compulsory counselling.

As of July 1, the fully immunised criteria for babies turning one in 2013 will include meningococcal "C" and pneumococcal. Varicella for chickenpox will also be included at 18 months.

The meningococcal vaccine for strain "C", which has been available for 10 years, has resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of cases of this disease, which also causes blood poisoning, marked by an aggressive purple rash. This rash (which doesn't disappear when pressed under glass) is unfortunately one of the latter symptoms and very often, once it is noticed, it's already too late to save the child.

It's not common, but it's still a threat, particularly to young children aged between 2 and 10, so it's incredibly important to prevent this disease. Professor Robert Booy, head of clinical research at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) said that the vaccine has saved many lives.

"In the 10 years since we started meningococcal "C" vaccinations we've seen a 95 per cent drop in disease. In 2011 there were only nine cases of meningococcal "C" reported compared with 162 in 2002," Professor Booy said.

The group "B" strain of the bacterial disease, for which there is no current vaccination, was responsible for 83 per cent of the 222 cases of meningococcal disease last year.

A vaccine for strain "B" may be available in the next 12 months, but Leanne Weymark-Cotter from Meningococcal Australia said parents need to be aware that fully vaccinated does not mean fully covered against meningococcal "B".

Parents and carers must be vigilant and look after symptoms, which are similar to flu or gastro and include severe headache, fever, sore throat and lethargy - with the distinctive purple rash associated often one of the final symptoms.

It's very difficult to differentiate the symptoms of a nasty cold or flu and meningitis, so if parents are at all worried, if a temperature is not being contained with medicine or if the child seems listless and lethargic, it's better to be safe than sorry and get them checked out immediately by a GP or at A&E.

For more information on the new immunisation regulations, go to Human Services Australian Childhood Immunisation Register

mums@work | 11.07.13

“Not man enough”: male caregivers suffer at work

Men who care for their families, women without children – one would expect the world to be accepting of people making decisions that suit their lifestyles and aspirations. Unfortunately it seems many social groups are still unaccepting of those choosing non-traditional roles.

A series of studies from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found women without children and men who take on caregiving roles are treated worse at work than individuals who conform to those expectations.

From teasing that male workers were “not man enough” to social exclusion, general putdowns and questioning of work competence and ability, men and women who challenged social expectations suffered at work. This was true even at female-lead organisations.

“It is disturbing because it’s discouraging workers from using leaves and flexible work policies if they’re worried their status in the workplace is going to suffer as a result,” lead author Jennifer Berdahl said. “This kind of behaviour leads to discouragement at work, stress brought into the home and sometimes mental health problems and depressions if it gets bad enough.”

Women without children suffered the most mistreatment, followed by men who take on caregiving roles and women who played non-traditional roles in the home.

“This kind of treatment shouldn’t be tolerated in the workplace,” Berdahl said. “We need to be aware that guys are getting teased and harassed when they’re active caregivers at home and social and economic realities often make it so both parents need to be actively involved in caring for their kids.”

Kerryn Fewster, co-director of Australian consultancy Change2020, echoed Berdahl’s concerns. “I do think policy and organisations are doing a good job around encouraging equity for time off to rear kids, but it needs to be as easy for the men to come back [to work] as it is for the females.”

Fewster cited the old saying that one either lives to work or works to live. “Working is what we do, a lot of people enjoy it; a lot of others just do it to pay the bills. Either way, ultimately there’s something more, and that might be around your family or caring for your parents, or whatever it might be,” she added.

What can HR do?

  1. Be aware
    Observe those around you and see where this kind of mistreatment is happening. If a man leaves an event early to relieve his spouse, or has to take a morning off to care for a sick child, is he teased? Are women without children excluded from events or dismissed with comments like “You can’t understand stress until you’ve had children.”? Know when and where the problems occur so you can address it appropriately.
  2. Model good behaviour
    First ensure none of these attitudes filter upwards to management. Is it easier for women to get family care leave than men? Are line managers more supportive of one group than the other? Is childcare considered more important than eldercare? The process should be the same for all individuals.
  3. Communicate expectations
    Make sure all employees understand their rights to leave and support, and know that management is available to discuss their needs. If specific individuals are making the bulk of comments consider talking to them one on one about their behaviour.
mums@work | 10.07.13
Image: Free Digital Images/David Castillo Dominici


Deborah Hutton puts childcare affordability on political agenda

Just $160 is left in the average weekly pay packet of Australian working mums after the cost of childcare is taken out, according to the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AWCCI).

Highlighting the steep cost of childcare in Australia, a new media campaign featuring AWCCI ambassador Deborah Hutton is urging our political leaders to address childcare affordability in the lead up to the federal election.

"When the average cost of childcare in Australia is around $560 per child per week, and the average take home pay of a working mum is just over $700 a week, even a child can work out that childcare is simply unaffordable for thousands of Australian families, which is why we're asking you to go to to send an email to the Government today," Hutton says in the radio advertisement.

"Let's get affordable and accessible childcare on the political agenda."

According to AWCCI CEO Yolanda Vega, this isn't just an issue for parents, but one for the strength of the Australian economy.

"An efficient, flexible and affordable childcare system can also build a productive, prosperous and stable national economy," she said, based on research suggesting that if the level of female employment was to match male employment, Australia's GDP would increase by 11 percent, which is equivalent to $25 billion.

"If Mr Rudd is serious about 'productivity' and 'working together', he must include women in the equation and therefore address the national childcare crisis."

Along with the television, online and radio community service announcements, the AWCCI has released an issues paper revealing the challenges and opportunities in creating more affordable childcare options.

According to the paper, Australia's childcare system is being inundated by demand that is growing 13 times faster than supply. Three-quarters of long day-care centres in Australian capital cities have no vacancies for babies and two-thirds don't have room for toddlers.

"Parents are having to wait up to three years for appropriate childcare places, forcing women, on the whole, to resign in order to undertake child-caring responsibilities, rely on grandparents or hire expensive, private nannies," Vega said.

Citing an estimated 3.6 million Australian children under the age of 12 who are in need of childcare, the paper also reveals that demand is projected to climb further as fertility rates rise and net immigration continues to rise.
While Australia ranks first in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for the number of educated women, the paper points out that female employment rates remain low, with OECD figures indicating Australian female participation is at its lowest among women aged between 25 and 44 – the childbearing years.

Recommendations of the issues paper include widening the criteria for childcare accessibility to working parents by restructuring the existing childcare system to include in-home childcare, extending long-day childcare centre hours and including the childcare tax rebate to families who elect to use in-home childcare.

AWCCI has set up a petition to urge leaders to address affordable childcare in the upcoming election. 

mums@work | 10.07.13

Monday, July 8, 2013

Research into the prevalence and nature of pregnancy related discrimination in the workplace


There has been a lot in the media recently about pregnant women and those returning to the workforce being discriminated against in the workplace.


The Herald Sun reported on Wednesday that evidence to the Federal Government's review of the paid parental leave scheme shows pregnancy discrimination is endemic and has gotten worse in recent years.

JobWatch, the Victorian workers' legal centre, said it had received about 6000 complaints about pregnancy discrimination in the past decade.

Complaints had doubled in percentage terms in the past 10 years. Continue reading the full article here: Pregnant women denied paid parental leave, review hears.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick said: “The number of complaints received by the Commission and Fair Work Australia in these areas indicates that discrimination in relation to pregnancy and return to work after parental leave is a continuing problem in Australia.”

As a result The Australian Human Rights Commission has been asked by the Australian Government to undertake research into the prevalence and nature of discrimination as it relates to women who are pregnant at work and people returning to work after parental leave.

At the conclusion of this research and consultation process, the Commission will prepare a report, including recommendations, that will address: the prevalence of discrimination; adequacy of existing laws; policies, procedures and practices - and best practice approaches; and proposed areas of focus for future activities intended to address any major matters of concern that have arisen during the process.

The Commission will report on the research in May 2014. Continue reading the full article here: Commission to undertake pregnancy and return to work research.

mums@work | 08.07.13
Image: Free Digital Photo/Vlado