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 recognized 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.

June 2015: A group of Australian researchers has found that when people worked 49–59 hours per week, and 60 hours or more per week, they had worse mental health than when they were working 35–40 hours/week. The study, published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, was a longitudinal cohort with 12 annual waves of data collection over the period 2001–2012. The study yielded a sample of almost 91,000 observations from 18,420 people. Working hours over the preceding year was measured in five categories with standard full-time hours (35–40 hrs/week) as the reference. The researchers said the results suggest the need for employers and governments to regulate working hours to reduce the burden of mental ill health in the working population.

Source: A Milner, P Smith, A D LaMontagne: Working hours and mental health in Australia: evidence from an Australian population-based cohort, 2001–2012 [abstract] Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2014-102791

Rights under the Equal Opportunity Act

The Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (which took effect in August 2011) provides rights to employees who have carer or parental status, or family responsibilities (and duties for employers).  This protects working parents and carers from discrimination when trying to balance their work and family responsibilities.

Under the Act, employers must accommodate their employees' family and carer responsibilities where it is reasonable to do so. This requires an employer to seriously consider all requests for flexible work arrangements in relation to an employee's responsibilities as a parent or carer. Whether a refusal to accommodate an employee's parental or carer responsibilities is unreasonable will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular situation.

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.

Read More: Parent and carer status

The Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission has resources and information on the their website for workers and employers. 

See Also:

  • Information on the Equal Opportunity Act, 2010 on the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission website.

  • TUC Family-friendly rights Guide  (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.

Last amended June 2020