Special working arrangements to allow for care responsibilities in Australia: availability, usage and barriers

31 January 2020

Background Population ageing is projected to reduce labour force growth and aggregate labour force participation, whilst increasing demand for informal carers. Increasing the labour force participation of Australians who face barriers to employment (including carers) is part of the solution to labour market pressures occurring due to demographic change and may improve the financial wellbeing of carers. Aims To examine the availability, usage and barriers to accessing Special Working Arrangements (SWA) to provide care while employed in Australia. Data and methods The 2015 ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers was used to measure the prevalence of the availability, usage and barriers to SWA to care stratified by carer status and gender. Results About 94% of workers reported access to at least one type of SWA (n=25,094). Of this group, about 22% have used SWA to care in the last 6 months. The proportions using SWA to care were highest among primary carers (64%) followed by other carers (43%) and non-carers (19%). Of those who have used SWA, about 15% wanted to use additional SWA to care in the previous 6 months, but faced barriers in doing so, with higher proportions of primary carers (24.6%) and other carers (21.8%) reporting barriers. The main barriers faced by employed carers included insufficient paid leave and/or work commitments. Conclusions A range of paid and unpaid arrangements are necessary for carers to combine paid work with their caregiving responsibilities. Labour market legislation and workplace policies should be strengthened to reduce barriers to take up of SWA.