The research team
University of Melbourne:
- Associate Professor Alysia Blackham
- Professor Leah Ruppanner
- Professor Beth Gaze
- Professor Susan Ainsworth
- Dr. Brendan Churchill
- Kate Dangar, Research Project Manager
- Mira Gunawansa, Research Project Manager
- Lía Acosta Rueda, Research Assistant
- Cameron Patrick, Statistical Consultant
What was the research about?
The team researched pregnancy, parenting, caregiving and gender equality in the public sector. It looked at:
- Gender differences in accessing leave and flexible work options
- How the Gender Equality Act 2020 can address caregiving-related challenges.
How was the research conducted?
The researchers used mixed methods, including:
- desktop data collection
- analysing data from the 2021 People matter survey
It used 349 survey responses and 74 interviews. Participants came from 23 public sector workplaces.
What did the research find?
- Victoria's public sector is good at offering flexible work.
- More women than men take care of loved ones and need to use flexible work and leave for caring.
- Most people didn't know about their rights as carers in the workplace.
- Access to leave and flexible working arrangements for carers depends on individual managers. Many felt these benefits were difficult to access.
- COVID-19 made it easier for carers to work flexibly. Carers felt anxious about the return to inflexible arrangements.
- Caregivers, especially working mothers and women aged 50+ faced barriers to career advancement.
- Caregivers faced discrimination in the workplace, especially those from diverse backgrounds.
- Insecure work made discrimination worse. Some carers didn't take leave because they worried about their jobs.
- People taking leave due to trauma, like miscarriage or domestic violence, had less support.
Recommendations for public sector organisations
- Revise the Victorian Public Service Enterprise Agreement 2020. Develop an inclusive definition of caregiving.
- Learn how caregivers use different types of leave for caregiving responsibilities. This includes personal leave, unpaid leave and annual leave.
- Conduct an annual audit on leave allowances.
- Increase personal leave allowances.
- Make flexible working the standard for everyone.
- Track the use of caregiving entitlements (including requests and actual use).
- Include managing flexible work in performance reviews for managers.
- Make sure staff know their rights as caregivers and different leave options.
- Train all managers on caring, workplace flexibility and leave entitlements.
Recommendations for managers and HR departments
- Lead by example. Role model the use of leave or flexible work for caring needs.
- Discuss flexible work arrangements in regular check-ins with staff.
- Make it easier for staff to find information on leave options.
- Support caregivers to apply for promotions.
- Create staff networks for people with caring responsibilities to connect.
- Support people returning to work after long periods of leave for caregiving.
Recommendations for the Commission
- Track insecure work in the Victorian public sector. Look at how this affects caregivers.
- Encourage organisations to collect data on the caring responsibilities of their staff.
Read the full report
Citing this research
Dangar K, Gunawansa M, Blackham A, Ruppanner L, Gaze B, Ainsworth S, Churchill B, Acosta Rueda L and Patrick C, ‘Caring and workplace gender equality in the Public Sector in Victoria: Final Project Report’, University of Melbourne, 2023.