Bipartisan Senate Select Committee calls for ECEC wage reform and First Nations activity test removal
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Bipartisan Senate Select Committee calls for ECEC wage reform and First Nations activity test removal

Bipartisan Senate Select Committee calls for ECEC wage reform and First Nations activity test removal

by Jason Roberts

October 24, 2022

The Senate Select Committee on Work and Care has released its interim report in which a series of recommendations underscore the growing appetite for change of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) system in Australia amongst legislators.  


The Committee, which consists of seven members from across the major political parties, was convened to report on a range of matters including the adequacy of workplace laws in relation to work and care and the adequacy of current work and care supports, systems, legislation and other relevant policies across Australian workplaces and society including those impacting ECEC. 


The following eight recommendations including a call to lift wages of the care worker community and abolish the activity test for First Nations families are noted below:


Recommendation 1 – The committee recommends that, as a matter of priority, the Australian Government include new questions in the Census and/or new regular surveys of a representative group of workers to determine the extent, nature and effects of the interaction of work and care responsibilities across Australia. 


Why was this made? It was the committee’s view that better collection of data, the allocation of

adequate resourcing to assess and examine the data (including the engagement of policy and decision-makers) and the removal of any ‘data distortion’, would go some way to providing stakeholders and service providers with greater insights into the issues and would be the first step towards reforming the workplace relations structure.


Recommendation 2 – The committee recommends that the Australian Government develop an analysis of care work classifications and wage structures to systematically address underpayments and lift wages in the care sector. 


Why was this made? The committee believes that Australia needs to lift the floor of wages across the care services sector to properly value care sector workers and ensure the sector can meet growing demand, while addressing the impact of the feminised nature of the industry.


Recommendation 3 – The committee recommends that the Australian Government amend

the Fair Work Act 2009 to better accommodate the needs of workers who require flexible work hours and limit the ability of employers to reject such claims based on “reasonable business grounds” defenses.


Why was this made? The Committee believes the lack of flexibility in the workplace has a direct, detrimental impact on people balancing work and care, regardless of industry and particularly for people in casual, part-time or shift work arrangements.


Recommendation 4 – The committee recommends that the Department of Employment and

Workplace Relations investigate legislative reforms to the Fair Work Act 2009 and any other associated workplace laws, to enact a ‘right to disconnect’ from work.


Why was this made? – Availability creep, where employees feel they need to be available all the time to answer emails, calls or simply deal with their workload, impacts mental health, exacerbates work-life stress, impacts on productivity and takes workers away from a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.


Recommendation 5 – The committee recommends that the Australian Government amend the

Fair Work Act 2009 to provide improved rostering rights for employees implementing rostering practices that are predictable, stable and focused on fixed shift scheduling and requiring employers to genuinely consider employee views about the impact of proposed roster changes,

and take the views of the employee, including working carers, into consideration when changing rosters and other work arrangements.


Why was this made? – Unpredictable and last-minute changes being made to rosters in various employment contexts is having a clear and detrimental impact on working carers, with some having to leave employment entirely due to the impact of negative rostering practices on their care responsibilities.


Recommendation 6 – The committee recommends the Australian Government amend, as soon as is practicable, the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 to legislate for a paid parental leave period of 26 weeks.


Why was this made? – Australia’s current PPL framework limits the flexibility and choices available to families, parents, and other carers of babies and young children, by providing an unnecessarily short amount of time—90 days—and not providing incentives for partners to take parental leave


Recommendation 7 – The committee recommends that in the upcoming 2022-23 Budget, the

Australian Government commits to long-term increases in funding to First Nations community controlled Early Childhood Education and Care, with a particular focus on regional, remote and some urban areas.


Why was this made? – Evidence presented by SNAICC noted the major undersupply of ECEC in regional and remote areas, and that the current funding model does not support providers establishing services in undersupplied areas.


Recommendation 8 – The committee recommends that the Australian Government amend the

relevant Social Policy and Family Assistance Laws to ensure that First Nations people are not required to meet the requirements of the activity test in order to receive subsidised child care.


Why was this made? -The committee welcomes the Government’s commitment to increase the hours of subsidised child care for First Nations children, from 24 hours per fortnight to 36 hours, effective from July 2023. However, the committee remains concerned about the activity test thresholds associated with the subsidies and the test’s disproportionate impact on First Nations communities. 


To access the full report visit the Parliament Website.


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