Reducing full-time weekly hours from 38 to 32 would enable nurses, midwives, and carers to better balance work with personal responsibilities, such as childcare.
The recommendation was one of several in ANMF (Vic Branch)’s submission to the Senate Select Committee on Work and Care which is investigating the impact of combining work and care responsibilities on the wellbeing of workers, carers, and those they care for.
With approximately 89 per cent of the workforce identifying as female, combined with the gendered distribution of caring responsibilities of young and older family members, the impact of juggling both has had a considerable impact on workers’ wellbeing.
Assistant Secretary Paul Gilbert told 3AW that the idea is already being trialled in parts of England, and countries such as Iceland, with other industries investigating a four-day work week.
‘People work 12 hour shifts currently. They do all sorts of things to try and avoid the number of days they have to go through the childcare hurdle because most childcare doesn’t open in time for morning shifts to start. So it’s really quite a draining experience.’
Additionally, 90 per cent of graduate nurses and midwives are employed on a 0.8 EFT with a majority of the workforce, particularly midwifery, are part-time. However, working part-time leaves many in a precarious financial position.
Unfortunately, current workplace laws remain inadequate, with many members experiencing barriers by their employers for flexible working arrangements.
‘We’ve got to be attractive going into the future for young people, and the majority of people who enter our profession are women. They have childcare responsibilities. And this is one way of trying to manage that and probably reduce the amount of stress and absenteeism and fatigue that we see about at the moment.’
ANMF believes that a multi-pronged approach is required, with a number of other recommendations including:
- Improving access to carers leave to include a broader range of caring activities
- Lifting the bar for employer refusal for flexible working arrangements to a higher threshold
- Aligning the flexible work arrangement entitlement with the reasonable adjustment requirement in the equal opportunity jurisdiction by requiring employers to make reasonable adjustments for carers
- Ensuring parental leave (paid and unpaid) counts towards long service leave
- Increasing paid family and domestic violence leave to 20 paid days consistent with the public sector entitlement.
Additionally, the Branch recommends reforms to childcare arrangements, including fee relief, co-location of childcare facilities for larger organisations, and accessible hours for childcare.
Read the full submission [PDF].
The committee is expected to present an interim report by 18 October with a final report by the second sitting Tuesday in February 2023.