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Caring responsibilities

Caring responsibilities discrimination is treating people unfairly because they have a responsibility to care for a dependent child or for an immediate family member who is in need of care and support.

Carers and Flexible Work

This week, 13-19 October 2013, is Carers Week. Carers Week aims to increase recognition, support and appreciation of Australia's 2.6 million carers. It is an opportunity to learn more about carers, what they do and how you can support them.

A key issue for many carers is how to juggle their caring responsibilities with work, with more than 58% of carers being of working age. Most carers of working age combine their caring role with paid work (55%), and the majority of employed carers work full-time (63%).

Worker on maternity leave told she could only return full time

Paulina was employed full time by an engineering company. She became pregnant and applied for six months’ maternity leave. She requested a return to work based on three days per week, and was told that this would be seriously considered and details worked out upon her return. However, just before returning to work, Paulina was told that she could only return to a full-time position, and that if she did not accept this she would be made redundant.

Outcome: 
As a result of discussions between the parties before the matter came to conciliation, Paulina's advocate and the company agreed that they would pay her $10,000, give her a letter of apology, and review their policy regarding parental leave.

Mother refused reduced hours at work to collect her child from school

Sue worked for a state government agency. Her daughter attended school, and its out-of-school hours care program was full, so parents could be only offered a maximum of three nights per week. Sue asked her manager if she could finish early two days a week to enable her to collect her child, but she was told that it was not possible.

Outcome: 
Following negotiations between the parties, the employer agreed to allow Sue to finish early on two days each week. The employer also said they would attempt to look for a suitablly-funded position that supports reduced working hours. On her part, Sue agreed that if her employer was unable to negotiate flexible working hours with another business unit or agency, and that unit or agency can provide reasonable justification for not being able to accept this, she will accept the position.

Sacked for caring responsibilities

Reg worked for a medium-sized metropolitan-based building contractor. He took three days off work as his wife was about to give birth, but Reg was made to feel extremely bad for taking time off work for this reason. A few days later, his employer called him and said he was needed at work saying they were very busy and he had been taking too much time off. Two months later, his wife called him at work saying she was very sick and needed him to come home. He tried to call his boss a few times but there was no answer, so he went home anyway. The next day he was sacked.

Outcome: 
A conciliation conference was held, leading to the boss agreeing to settle the complaint by paying Reg $1,600 for pain and suffering.

Council causes problems for disabled person and her carer

Corinna had a disability and was cared for by Bill. Corinna and Bill, claimed discrimination on the grounds of disability and caring responsibilities. They arranged for their local council to perform work on the street and footpath outside their house, but the Council provided minimal notice of the commencement of work. Due to Corinna's disability she was unable to walk long distances, and could not walk to the end of the street where the only car parking was available. So she and Bill stayed in a hotel for the duration of the work.

Outcome: 
In a conciliation conference, the Council agreed to reimburse Bill and Corinna's expenses in staying away from home. This amounted to $1,350. The Council also gave an assurance that their practices would be reviewed.

Paid Parental Leave Scheme passed

Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity (SA), Anne Burgess, welcomed the announcement yesterday of a long awaited Paid Parental Leave scheme for Australian men and women.

The government funded scheme, which was passed yesterday by Federal parliament, will provide up to 18 weeks paid leave to eligible parents for children born or adopted after 1 January 2011. Eligible parents will be paid the National Minimum Wage (currently $570 per week).

Can I ask applicants if they are married or intending to have children?

Questions asked should be relevant to the job. Discrimination on the grounds of marital status, pregnancy and caring responsibilities is unlawful. Questions such as these may leave you open to complaints of discrimination.

Paid parental leave - A step in the right direction

The Commissioner has welcomed the announcement of a Paid Parental Leave scheme as part of the Federal Government's 2009/10 Budget.  The government funded scheme, which will provide 18 weeks paid leave at the Federal minimum wage for eligible parents, is due to commence on 1 January 2011.

Mobile phone applications

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Aired on: 
5AA Radio

On 17 December 2008, Equal Opportunity Commissioner Linda Matthews was interviewed on Radio 5AA's Leon Byner Show commenting on Vodaphone's refusal of a mobile phone application from a stay-at-home mother in Victoria.

Family Responsibilities/Flexible Workplaces

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Aired on: 
Radio Adelaide

Ian Law of the Equal Opportunitiy Commission dropped into Achieveability and had a chat with Darren Andrews to discuss Family Responsibilities/Flexible Workplaces.