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Young workers 'disadvantaged' under IR reforms

Reforms to the national awards system requiring young people to work a minimum of three hours per shift could result in fewer jobs for young Canberra workers, the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry warned yesterday (22 Feb 2009).
The chamber’s director for workplace relations, Greg Schmidt, said employers might be less inclined to take on youths for short after school shifts.
“There will be less scope for young people to be employed for an hour or two after school unless the employer is committed to paying for a three hour shift, which may not be practical either for the employer or the employee,” Mr Schmidt said.
Unions ACT spokesperson Tim McCann believes the requirement provides some protection for young workers against employers unfairly exploiting them.
“If you don’t have those clear guidelines then people will be in a position where they may be asked to come in for one hour and they might have 45 minutes travelling time either way,” Mr McCann said. “It has to be fair and you have to draw the line somewhere.”
Mr Schmidt argues the current arrangements are inflexible and that other alternatives should be explored to ensure young workers aren’t disadvantaged.
“We should be looking at options like the ability to offer shorter shift lengths, maybe an hour or two hours at a time, if the offer went through some other vetting process besides just the agreement of the young person concerned,” Mr Schmidt said.
“For example, if the employee was under 18 or some relevant age, perhaps the agreement of a parent or guardian could go along with arranging that shift.”
Under the Federal Government’s Fair Work Act, the minimum shift requirement was raised from two hours to three. This brought the ACT and three other states in line with the rest of the country.
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he will scrap the requirement should the Coalition be elected to government later this year.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, of the 196,000 workers in the ACT, around 12,000 are aged 15 to 19 years. Approximately three quarters of these are employed part-time.

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