Work-Life Balance

With hours of work generally on the increase, the issue of work-life balance is also becoming increasingly important.

The concept of the standard eight hour day is fast disappearing for many Australian workers.  Australia, once recognised as the 'working man's paradise' for its Eight Hour Day achievement, now has amongst the highest working hours in the developed world. Read more

Many workers are working longer hours in their jobs, sometimes without even proper financial recompense.  Others are juggling several casual or part-time jobs.  But for whatever reason, many workers are finding it difficult to find a correct 'work-life' balance.  This can have implications both for the health and safety of the worker and also for the family.  Workers may find themselves stress and/or fatigued.   

This is a legitimate OHS concern and as such can and should be raised with your employer, either through Section 73 of the Act, or through the health and safety committee.  Under the consultation requirements of the Act, your employer has a duty to consult with you on identifying and controlling hazards.

Workplace Health and Safety and the University of Queensland has developed a 'Better Work-Life Balance' questionnaire to help workplaces evaluate and improve their work-life balance policies.  The survey aims to measure how effectively organisations accommodate work-life balance. It assesses employee awareness of work-life balance policies and their comfort levels about the policies at organisations that are looking at becoming employers of choice and gaining other benefits of getting work-life balance right.

A manual had been produced to assist in completing the survey.

Rights under the Equal Opportunity Act 

The Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission has published guidelines for employers and employees about the new ‘family responsibilities’ under the state’s Equal Opportunity Act. From 1 September 2008, changes to the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 will protect working parents and carers from discrimination when trying to balance their work and family responsibilities.

The guidelines provide details of the amendments, offer answers to common questions asked by employers and employees, and include a model process that employees and employers can use to make and consider requests for changes to work arrangements. 

An employer cannot unreasonably refuse to accommodate an employee's parental or carer responsibilities to their work arrangements under these guidelines. In effect, this means that an employer should not refuse flexible work arrangements for workers with family responsibilities, without considering all of the circumstances; and all requests should be seriously considered.

‘Building eQuality in the workplace: Family Responsibilities - Guidelines for Employers and Employees’  [pdf]

See Also:

  • Work Life Balance webpage from SafeWork SA
  • Changing Times - the UK's TUC guide to work-life balance.  From here you can also subscribe to theChanging Times e-newsletter
  • TUC Guide to family friendly working [pdf] (2010) a guide on how to persuade employers of the benefits of introducing family friendly policies at work. The TUC guide says that unions have led the way in calling for more family-friendly working. The issue is an increasingly high priority for unions, with work-life advice now the most popular equality issue that members ask their union rep for guidance on.