Caring and paid work - your rights

Balancing your caring responsibilities with the demands of paid work is a challenge. You may need extra support and access to flexible work arrangements. It is important to know your rights.

Importance of paid work

Many carers of working age want to continue in paid employment.

  • They want to earn extra income and to build up superannuation for retirement
  • They want to take advantage of the personal challenges, independence, self esteem and important social connections that the workplace provides
  • They want respite from their caring responsibilities and a life outside caring

If you are the parent or carer of a person with a disability under 18 years of age

If you are the parent or carer of a pre-school age child, or of a person with a disability who is under 18 years of age you have the right to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Standard 2 of the National Employments Standards).

We believe that this right should be extended to families who care for adults and older people with a disability or chronic illness.

Flexible working arrangements may include:

  • changes to hours of work – such as a reduction in hours or changes to start and finish times
  • changes to patterns of work – such as ‘split-shifts’ or job sharing arrangements
  • changes to location of work – such as the ability to work from home

You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months (full-time, part-time or casually on regular and systematic basis) and have a reasonable expectation that your employment will continue.

There are rules governing how your request must be made and how your employer must respond.

Your employer must seriously consider a request for flexible working arrangements and may only refuse it on reasonable business grounds. The act is fairly new and there is still no clear legal definition of what ‘reasonable business grounds’ might be. Contact Fair Work Australia for more information.

If you feel that your employer has discriminated against you can pursue a number of options through the Fair Work Ombudsman, including investigation, mediation or litigation. The Fair Work Ombudsman will cover the cost of your claim if they decide to proceed with it. Read their factsheet on Unlawful workplace discrimination for more information.

If you are caring for a family member of any age

If you are caring for a family member of any age you also have the right to request flexible working arrangements under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA).

The Act makes it unlawful discrimination for your employer to unreasonably refuse to accommodate your parental or carer responsibilities in your work arrangements.

They apply if you have been offered employment, are currently employed (including contract and commission based workers) or are a partner in a firm.

Your employer must seriously consider a request for flexible working arrangements and must give you good reasons for refusing it.

If you think that your employer has unreasonably refused your request for flexible work arrangements, you can make a complaint of discrimination to the Equal Opportunity Commission.

They will investigate your complaint and set a conciliation process in place if they think it is required. They will also cover the cost of your claim if they decide to proceed with it.

Contact the Commission for more information or read their guidelines.

Right to take leave

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Standard 5 of the National Employment Standards) grants you the right to annual leave entitlements to cover sickness or caring responsibilities, including:

  • ten days of paid personal  or carer’s leave (paid pro rata for part time employees)
  • two days’ unpaid carer’s leave as required
  • two days’ compassionate leave (unpaid for casuals) as required

Right to negotiate an individual flexibility agreement (IFA)

The Fair Work Act 2009 grants you and your employer the right to negotiate an individual arrangement that changes the conditions of your modern award or enterprise agreement to meet a genuine need.

If you can put forward a good business case to your employer, you may be able to negotiate an IFA for flexible work arrangements to help you cover your caring responsibilities.

Your employer is obliged to make sure that your IFA does not undermine the minimum entitlements of your workplace and that that you are better off overall compared to the existing modern award or enterprise agreement.

Contact Fair Work Australia for more information.

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