Release type: Media Release


Help for small businesses to become more family friendly


The Hon Julia Gillard MP
Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for Social Inclusion
Deputy Prime Minister

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, and Special Adviser for Work and Family Balance and Pay Equity, Senator Jacinta Collins, today encouraged small business to apply for grants of up to $15,000 to help them better balance work and family.

From today, eligible small businesses with less than 15 employees can apply for the grants to put in place family-friendly arrangements in their workplaces.

The second round grants form part of the Australian Government’s $12 million Fresh Ideas for Work and Family Grants Program.

Successful recipients of grants in Round 1 of this program put in place practices like agreements between employees and employers for flexible working hours or agreements for some employees to work from home in order to spend time with their kids. Some businesses installed family rooms within their offices.

Research shows that these kind of flexible working arrangements help businesses to retain their valuable staff, reduce turnover costs, increase productivity and improve staff morale and customer satisfaction.

The program gives small businesses and their employees an opportunity to work together to address work and family issues, and allows them to bring about important and practical solutions to address the unique challenges they face.

The Australian Government recognises that small businesses will be a key driver of social inclusion and equity by supporting family-friendly initiatives.

The program is one way in which the Government is helping employers and employees manage their work and home lives more effectively to ensure high productivity is balanced with support for working families.

The Fair Work System also provides all working families with access to a number of entitlements to help them balance work and family.

These are:

  • 12 months unpaid parental leave for new parents - one of the ten legislated National Employment Standards. Like annual leave, public holidays and redundancy pay, unpaid parental leave is guaranteed to all employees covered by the new national Fair Work system.
  • A parent’s right to request flexible work arrangements like returning to work part time or an additional 12 months unpaid leave to help care for children under school age. The ‘right to request’ will help Australia maximise workforce participation and ensure employers can retain skilled and experienced employees in the future. An employer can refuse a request on ‘reasonable business grounds’ but must provide their reasons for the refusal in writing. A refusal without reasons is insufficient.

The Australian Government is also introducing legislation for a government-funded paid parental leave scheme later this year to help working families better balance work and family responsibilities.

Applications for the second funding round of the Fresh Ideas for Work and Family Grants Program will close on 31 March 2010.

To apply for a grant, small businesses can go to complete the online application form or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 (open 8.00am–6.00pm, Monday to Friday) for further information.