Give men a go, says sex commissioner

  • Carol Nader
  • July 22, 2008

MEN are feeling pressure to work long hours when they don't necessarily want to, and should be given the same opportunities as women to work part-time, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner says.

"What we need is more senior part-time roles filled by men and women," commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told The Age. "Flexibility is absolutely part of the modern workplace, and it's about men and women, not just women with young children."

The pressure felt by men is particularly enhanced when their partners have children and they become the primary breadwinner in the family.

Fathers of infant children are among the hardest working in the country, preventing them from spending time with their partners and children.

"They work more hours than other men, and they don't want to," she said. "Men have said to me, 'My female colleague can work three days a week, but if I ask for that, there's a culture that says he's obviously not committed to his workplace'."

The issue is one of the themes that emerged from Ms Broderick's recently completed "listening tour", which she began last November. The tour included every state and territory, cities and remote communities, and consultations with more than 1000 people.

A report canvassing the themes of the tour will be released today.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that of the 2.8 million people working part time in 2005, about 70% were women. Ms Broderick said part-time work was often low-paid work. But it should be "gender neutral" and an option for all levels of seniority in the workplace.

As a Senate inquiry conducts a review of the 25-year-old Sex Discrimination Act, Ms Broderick has made the introduction of paid parental leave for men and women one of her priorities.