Workplaces could be more flexible

FRONT-page news last week was the Gillard government’s proposal to get teenage parents off welfare and back into work or study.

Many comments focused on the unfairness of it, that it was discriminatory or the timeframe was impractical (of cutting payments after six months).

When I had my daughter the biggest problem for me was inflexibility of my workplace.

I actually did go back to work six months after my child was born, not by choice but necessity.

In those days we didn’t get the same assistance payments and the Baby Bonus was one-tenth of what it is now but childcare places were impossible to come by.

While the intention of the budget policy is a good one – getting teenage parents to finish school and improve their chances of employment (and, hopefully, break the cycle of teen pregnancy) – for the ones who need to earn rather than learn, the problem becomes one of finding a position that has the flexibility they need so they can juggle parenthood with work.

Businesses can help out. If businesses who are able could look at less-structured work arrangements, this would go some way to making the proposal workable.

For example, job share roles where two people work what was formally one role (this was how I returned to the workforce, working two days a week while another mum worked the remaining three) mean flexibility, as well as less strain on childcare as you have two part-timers instead of full-time places being needed.

Employers could also look at flexible working hours.

Even the high school does this with senior students to ease overcrowding issues. Surely it’s an idea that could be feasible in workplaces.

Unfortunately employers have traditionally been reluctant to think outside the box with flexible arrangements because it’s easier to have full-time employees working standard hours but, if we all view this is as a social problem and that we all belong to the society affected, surely it’s one that requires a united solution – rather than putting it in the too-hard basket or waiting for the government to fix it?

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