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Compensation for childcare dispute

The Sydney Morning Herald
8 November 2010

Compensation for childcare dispute
By Geesche Jacobsen

A divorced man has won $5,000 compensation from a Double Bay after-school care centre which refused to enrol his children every second week, when he cared for them.

The man, known only as JQ, had a shared parenting arrangement with his former wife, under which he had custody of their two primary-school-aged children on alternate weeks.

In late 2007 Mr JQ stopped working as a mortgage broker and sought to look for other work, but said he needed to be sure his children were cared for after school in the weeks they lived with him. Staff at the centre, Double Bay Out of School Hours Inc, explained to him that they could not offer him permanent spots every other week under its policy, but that he could try to book casual care spots on a week-by-week basis.

In December 2007 Mr JQ handed in a formal application form for care on alternate weeks, with a covering letter advising the centre he intended to complain that he was being discriminated against because he was divorced.

The Administrative Decisions Tribunal, which decided his case last week, heard the centre never contacted him to tell him if his application was successful, as was the centre's policy. But he had also been unreasonable in not contacting the centre by early 2008 to ask what it had decided.

Instead Mr JQ stopped looking for a job, borrowed money and used his superannuation to care for his children. By late 2008 he was broke, left Sydney and moved to rural Victoria and now blames the centre for losing contact with his children because it failed to offer guaranteed care.

The tribunal rejected those claims while recognising he was clearly distressed. It also found that it was impossible to argue he had been discriminated against because of his divorced status, when it was in fact the shared parenting arrangement - sometimes made by separated parents and not made by the majority of divorced parents - which had led to the dispute.

However, it ruled Mr JQ had been victimised by the centre when it failed to respond to his application because it was aware he had lodged an anti-discrimination complaint. He received $5000 in compensation.

Last year the centre offered permanent places for his children on alternate weeks, which he did not take up because he had moved.

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