The women, men, work and family project was launched by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward in 2005. It examines the relationship between family responsibilities and paid work.

Striking the balance between paid work and family life has become more than a “barbeque stopper” – it is one of the major challenges facing families, employers and governments.

HREOC released a discussion paper, Striking the Balance: Women, men, work and family in June 2005.

The project builds on the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission’s previous work on paid maternity leave and the Pregnancy and Work Inquiry by examining the broader issues for Australians who seek to combine paid work and family responsibilities.

At the heart of efforts to “strike the balance” between paid work and family and carer responsibilities is the issue of time.

It’s About Time: Women, men, work and family is the final paper of this project.

It’s About Time draws on material provided through 181 submissions from individuals and groups and 44 consultations and focus groups held around Australia throughout 2005 and 2006. HREOC heard many personal stories during the consultations and focus groups and spoke to employers, employer groups, employees, unions, community groups, parents, carers and children.

Despite a decade or more of economic growth and prosperity, many Australians say they are not living the lives they want. They feel pressured, stressed and constrained in the choices they can make, particularly at key points in their lives.

Family relationships top their list of priorities, but the demands of paid work increasingly undermine the time that people have to care for their children, parents and other family members.

While a large number of workplaces have family-friendly policies, many others do not.

The cost of not finding solutions to this challenge can be immense, particularly for individuals who are forced to take poorer quality paid work in order to meet their dual responsibilities or who have to drop out of the labour market altogether.

There are also costs for employers, particularly in industries with skills shortages, and costs for the economy as a whole in terms of workforce participation and productivity.

The aim has been to broaden the work and family debate to better include men’s role in family life, include forms of care other than child care (such as elder care and care for people with disability) and to highlight the relationship between paid work and unpaid work.

It’s About Time makes the case for a new framework to support a balance between paid work and family responsibilities. This new framework recognises changes in caring needs and responsibilities across the life cycle, addresses equality between men and women and reflects a “shared work – valued care” approach.

It proposes a series of changes to legislation, workplace policy and practice and government programs to support this new approach.

Making this new framework a reality requires commitment from governments, employers, communities, families and individuals because, in the end, striking the balance between paid work and family is a shared responsibility.

These proposed changes to legislation will most certainly affect your organisation in time, possibly sooner rather than later.
How committed and open will your organisation be??
Will it be ready to share the responsibility?….