ACS calls for 'family-friendly' industry

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has released a proposal to the government and ICT employers that pushes for shorter core working hours and a more "family-friendly" work environment.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has released a proposal to the government and ICT employers that pushes for shorter core working hours and a more "family-friendly" work environment.

The ACS wants the government to provide "favourable tax arrangements" to encourage employees to salary sacrifice a portion of their income that can be used to fund parental leave.

The proposed policy by the ACS also asks the government to introduce arrangements to allow ICT employees who invest more in superannuation to be able to draw down on this investment at a favourable tax rate prior to the current retirement age to fund parental leave.

The ACS is seeking tax deductions for child care arrangements for working parents in the ICT industry as well as the removal of fringe benefits tax (FBT) on gym and other recreational club memberships funded by employers or salary-sacrificed by employees.

ACS president Edward Mandla said he was expecting the suggested policies to increase workforce participation rate--particularly for women; improve living standards; increase enrolments in ICT courses; and increase the talent pool in the ICT sector.

The ACS policy also recommended to employers within the industry implement flexible working hours by setting core working hours from 10am to 3pm and accommodating early starts and late finishes.

Employers are also encouraged to schedule face to face meetings during core hours only and use technological solutions to facilitate meetings outside core hours. This includes support for teleworking or working away from the office environment to cater for family or other commitments.

"Adopting arrangement that allow employees to work from home or other locations outside the office for periods of time provides a means for the ICT industry to retain workers whose family or other commitments might otherwise prevent them from working," the policy paper said.

However, this should be offered on an "agreed basis" with individual employees, taking into account position requirements, work specifications, family and other commitments. The ACS considered that one or two days per week should be the maximum time an employee can spend working from home.

Under the policy, employers will pay for connectivity costs such as Internet Service Provider (ISP) and telephony for workers who are required to work out-of-office hours on projects. For other employees, the ACS said that connectivity costs should be borne by the employee in return for greater flexibility.

Mandla believes the policy will help prevent a potential skills shortage in the industry in the long run--especially with the diminishing student enrolments and low participation rates of women.

"To make genuine progress in this area, we need to see some practical solutions put forward," he said. "That's why the ACS decided to engage the experience and expertise of leading ICT companies and HR managers. We believe the solutions proposed in this policy can help prevent a potential skills shortage by facilitating a happy, committed and productive workforce within the ICT industry".

The goal of this policy, the ACS said, is to "improve the living standards of Australians through higher levels of productivity, quality of work, increased work participation rates and talent in the ICT sector".

"A simple definition of 'Work / Life balance' is achieving a better balance between the requirements of employees and achievement of organisational goals. There has been a lot of focus on ICT's application to women but perhaps not enough recognition that the challenges women face within young families are also an issue for men in the workforce. This policy is designed to address the needs of employees of many different ages and stages of their working career," said Mandla.