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Push to give men equal 'Parental Leave' rights to flexible work

A FAMILY Discrimination Commissioner with the same powers as the Sex Discrimination Commissioner has been proposed to ensure men get equal rights to flexible work conditions.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick suggested the new commissioner to champion the rights of men as the Rudd Government moves to overhaul the Sex Discrimination Act.

Ms Broderick yesterday said the current work culture that made it easy for women to do part-time work, get leave to care for children and get maternity leave disadvantaged both men and women, and entrenched gender inequity.

Women were disadvantaged because they were placed on the "mummy track" and their careers stagnated when they used these flexible work provisions.

Men were disadvantaged because although these flexible work conditions were available to them on paper, work culture prevented men from using them.

More than one third of men were working longer than 45 hours per week with fathers of young children likely to work longer hours, Ms Broderick said.

A male worker told her during her recent listening tour that he was seen as letting the team down when he asked for access to flexible work conditions.

"Try to be the person who walks in and says, 'I'm going to work an eight-hour day - start work at eight and walk out of the office between four and five o'clock'. They're going to stare at you when you leave," he said.

Ms Broderick said creating workplaces that supported both men and women to balance paid work and shared caring responsibilities was critical in achieving gender equality.

Under the current Sex Discrimination Act, men can make a claim about discrimination only if they are sacked for asking for part-time work.

Women have greater rights and can make a case if they suffer indirect discrimination such as being placed on a mummy track without promotion if they work part-time.

Ms Broderick wants to change the Sex Discrimination Act so men also have the right to take action for indirect discrimination if they are put on a daddy track after requesting flexible work conditions.

But she said the best way of protecting men's rights was to have a family responsibilities commissioner with their own Act.

Ms Broderick said the scope of the Act needed to be expanded to cover sex discrimination and harassment in text messaging and social networking sites such as Facebook.

By Sue Dunlevy
Article from: The Courier Mail, 04 September, 2008,27753,24289177-5012426,00.html

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