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News News Give workers more say on conditions: experts warn
ALL workers should have the right to ask for part-time work or work from home, a group of work-family researchers urge in a pre-election document released today.

The Work and Family Policy Roundtable also calls for a fortnight's paid paternity leave for fathers and 14 weeks' paid maternity leave, eventually increasing to 52 weeks' paid parental leave per household.

Benchmarks for Work and Family Policies in Election 2007, issued by 11 Australian academics, will be used to rate the major parties' policies before the election.

The roundtable aims to collect and disseminate information to promote public policies. Conveners are Sydney University's Dr Elizabeth Hill and Professor Barbara Pocock, director of the University of South Australia's Centre for Work-Life.

Other recommendations include:

■ Superannuation contribution top-ups for working women who take unpaid maternity leave.

■ Restricting long and/or unsocial hours and confining averaging of hours to four-week periods or less.

■ Better integration of part-time and casual workers into the workforce, with access to pro rata rates.

■ Establishing a small business advocate to assist in responses to requests to vary hours of work.

Benchmarks says: "A growing body of international research recognises that policies that give workers more say over their working time arrangements to accommodate their care responsibilities, improve the wellbeing of workers and their households. They can also increase retention rates and lower absenteeism."

The group says there should be clear processes for considering employee grievances if requests for more flexible arrangements are not agreed to.

It also argues for improved maternity provisions, saying maternity payments are not a substitute for paid leave. "They do not guarantee working women time away from their jobs … They do not recognise the labour market attachment and contribution of women in paid work."

 
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