National

What women want: female public servants speak out

Women are painting a ''worrying picture'' of longer days and tougher workplace cultures, according to a new survey.

Australia's female public servants say they are working longer hours than ever and their jobs are invading their private lives and hurting their relationships.

Internships, normally unpaid, have become increasingly common in Australia and overseas.
Internships, normally unpaid, have become increasingly common in Australia and overseas. Photo: Rich H Legg

Many women in the Commonwealth, state and territory public services have reported pressure to not take workplace entitlements and showing up to work while feeling sick because they were "not sick enough to stay at home".

The survey What Women Want, conducted by the CPSU and published to coincide with International Women's Day, paints what the union calls a "worrying picture" of the problems confronting women working in the public sector around Australia.

The union has used the survey's results to mount another attack in its campaign against the government's approach to public service bargaining, with most of the Commonwealth service still in the grip of bitter and protracted disputes over wages and conditions.

"Women tell us that they are tired and the increasingly excessive hours they are working are taking a toll on their personal relationships," the report states.

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"When this is combined with the growing encroachment of work into their non-work lives it paints a very worrying picture.

"Significantly more women are saying that working additional hours causes them difficulties because they are already fatigued and overworked and that it takes a toll on personal relationships [more] than in 2013.

"These pressures are affecting the health and well-being of women."

The survey was completed by more than 12,000 women working in the Australian Public Service (APS), Northern Territory Public Service, Australian Capital Territory Public Service and in the private sector, including large private outfits like Telstra.

Women also told of increasingly harsh workplace cultures that pressured employees into not taking entitlements like personal, carers' or sick leave and of more instances of being contacted by work in their spare time.

"Unsurprisingly an increasing number often go to work while sick because they felt 'not sick enough to stay at home' and due to workload pressures," the report reads.

"Over the past few surveys, there has been an increase in the frequency of employer contact outside of work hours.

"Women love the jobs they do and have long been attracted to the public service because of the ability to balance work and busy lives.

"However, women tell us that they are tired and the increasingly excessive hours they are working are taking a toll on their personal relationships.

"When this is combined with the growing encroachment of work into their non-work lives it paints a very worrying picture."

On the positive side, the survey found most women were generally satisfied with their access to flexible working arrangements, with 74 per cent very satisfied or satisfied.

The result was consistent across full and part-time workers, whether they had dependent children or not.

But the union expressed strong concern about the future of the Australian Public Service as a family-friendly employer.

"The results highlight that while satisfaction with access to flexible working arrangements is high, there are still workplace pressures which discourage employees from accessing their entitlements," the report notes.

"Since the last survey, these have worsened, and it seems that the workplace culture in the APS is shifting away from being perceived as a family friendly employer."  

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