Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Report on Family and Work Shows that Men are Not Taking Up Flexible Work Options

A report released today on family-friendly work places shows that only 18 per cent of fathers used flexible hours to balance work and family, and 73 per cent did not use any family-friendly provisions.

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today released the Men’s Uptake of Family-Friendly Employment Provisions paper while opening the Families Australia conference – Globalisation, Families and Work – Meeting the Policy Challenges of the Next Two Decades.

Senator Patterson said the report prepared by Michael Bittman of the Social Policy Research Centre and his team, reviews current literature in this area and looks at two case studies of companies from contrasting sectors of the Australian community, which have introduced family-friendly policies into the workplace.

Senator Patterson said the Workplace Relations Act introduced by the Howard Government had offered employees flexibility and choice to suit their family needs.

Under the Act, 81 per cent of agreements contained at least one work and family provision such as flexible working hours to care for children or parents and part-time work.

Forty-six per cent of agreements have two or more work and family provisions.

Senator Patterson said: “The framework is there for more family friendly workplaces and I hope that employers and employees can use the Act to take advantage of the flexible arrangements on offer to balance family and work better.

“We need to see employers and employees working together to explore more family- friendly workplaces, which can lead to more productive environments and a win for families and companies.”

Senator Patterson said in Australia there is limited information about fathers’ use of leave to care for their young children.

“This research was commissioned through my Department’s four year Social Policy Research Services Agreement with the Social Policy Research Centre,” Senator Patterson said.

“Other findings in the report show that only 2 per cent of men in the study indicated that they had switched to part-time work for child care reasons,” Senator Patterson said.

“More than two-thirds of fathers with preschool-age children said that their partner was the primary carer of these children.

“Fathers employed by both companies in the project’s case studies believed being a ‘good father’ involved forming intimate relationships with children by spending quality time with them.

“The case studies also showed that despite an enthusiastic view on shared parenting, most male employees surveyed tended to give work priority over family.

“The Men’s Uptake of Family-Friendly Provisions project is aligned closely with the Australian Government’s $41 million Men and Family Relationships Initiative which is all about strengthening men’s capacity to establish and maintain quality family relationships.

“With women participating in the workforce more than ever before it is important that we understand the role men and women play in caring for their children and look at how we can minimise the barriers they face.

“Families play an important role in shaping the economic and social wellbeing of Australia and this research will contribute to policy that will focus on helping families manage their work and family responsibilities.

“The Families Australia conference is a great opportunity to release this study which will stimulate discussions on long term social and economic trends affecting families and their efforts to balance work and family.”

The Australian Government has provided over $150,000 to Families Australia to organise the conference. $110,000 has also been provided to Families Australia to host National Families Week from 9-15 May 2004 and to mark the 10th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

The theme for National Families week is ‘Celebrate Your Family’ and will include recognition of the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

A link to the report can be found on the News and Events section of FACS website.