Sunday, June 03, 2012

Adventures in Labo(u)r Laws

When I received the offer for my new job, I looked through the packet of information with great interest. I was especially intrigued by one of the papers -- an information sheet (link is to pdf) from "Fair Work Australia" about my rights as an employee. It was a recursive info sheet -- one of my rights was "the right to receive this information sheet about your rights."

But reading it, several major points stood out in my mind. The first was all the rights that Australian workers have, rights that Americans only see as luxuries. For example, everyone receives four (4) weeks paid vacation! The lowest minimum-wage worker in Australia is entitled to more vacation than I receive as a highly compensated professional in the United States. Note that they are entitled to it; I receive three weeks off as a gesture of goodwill from my employer. (There is no vacation requirement in the US.)

Furthermore, Australian workers are entitled to up to ten days of paid leave for illness or caregiving for a family member. Again, no paid leave is required in the United States, which means that the three days per year that my employer gives me is above and beyond the call of duty. But it is somewhat humiliating to realize that a minimum wage worker in Australia has more than 3 times the cushion that I do in the event of accident or illness.*

Another entitlement is to be able to work out a flexible schedule with your employer to accommodate for caring for your child under school age or disabled child. Imagine trying to do that in the United States! Even my employer, which prides itself on (its perceived) flexibility, would be hard-pressed to do that.

It's like employers are supposed to think of you as a full person, not just a "work factory!" I think I'm going to really like being respected as a worker.

* This is not intended as a swipe at minimum-wage workers. My point is that the lowliest workers in the Australian labor ecosystem are entitled to more benefits than the highest workers in the American labor ecosystem receive from top employers. American workers deserve more rights!

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