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Sex Discrimination Commissioner wants flexible hours for dads

By Sue Dunlevy, Political Reporter
July 22, 2008 12:00am

Reference source: The Daily telegraph

MEN who want to spend more time with their children have found a new champion in an unlikely quarter - the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

Elizabeth Broderick said she wanted to strengthen the Sex Discrimination Act to penalise those employers who stick family-friendly fathers on the "daddy track" by refusing to promote them.

The reforms are a key part of the new commissioner's agenda for action that will be launched in Sydney today.

Ms Broderick said that, until the workplace culture changed to give men as well as women an equal right to time off work for family duties, men would be unable to do housework and childcare. She told The Daily Telegraph that men as well as women deserved to have the joy of being involved in their families.

But the workplace culture prevented them taking up part-time work and they were still viewed as the primary breadwinners.

Ms Broderick said men complained to her about the gender imbalance in access to flexible family-friendly work arrangements during the listening tour she undertook when appointed last September.

"Men would say: 'My female colleague finds it easier to get flexible work arangements than I do because if I put my hand up it's like I'm not a serious player, you're not committed'," Ms Broderick said.

She said the Sex Discrimination Act currently does more to protect women than men in these circumstances because of the international laws on which it was based.

"We do know the Sex Discrimination Act has more limited protection for men than it does for women," she said.

"Men can only bring a complaint if they are sacked, not if they are put on the daddy track,' she said.

She wanted the law to be strengthened to protect men from indirect discrimination such as being denied promotion because they work part-time or have family responsibilities.

"We will be recommending to Government that they strengthen that," she said.

Ms Broderick said she does not view her role as at all being about the battle of the sexes.

And she said it should not be surprising that she was battling for men's rights when her office was originally set up to make women more equal.

Her office's push for 12 months paid maternity leave in Australia was also about getting fathers time off work to spend with the newborn, she said.

"If there is one thing I could do to promote gender equality in this country it would be to better share paid and unpaid work between men and women," she said.

"If we strengthen the family provisions of the (Sex Discrimination (Act) that will allow men to be more involved in their family and women to be more involved in paid work," she said.


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