Adult literacy inquiry final hearing

THE House Employment, Education and Training Committee will hold its final hearing for its inquiry into Adult literacy and its importance, as it hears evidence from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on its administration of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey.

Committee Chair, Andrew Laming MP said, "The committee has heard concerns of under sampling in PIAAC which has the potential to impact results across states and territories, but particularly in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

"Being the main source of national statistics on adult literacy, it is critical that sampling sizes are sufficient so the PIAAC survey can serve as a baseline for measuring the outcomes of policies aimed at increasing adult language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy proficiency," Mr Laming said.

Public hearing details

Date: Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Time: 11.45am to 12.30pm (AEDT)
Location: via videoconference

Program: available here.

The hearing will be broadcast live at aph.gov.au/live.

Further information about the inquiry is available on the Committee’s website.

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Employsure: Should Australia adopt a four-day work week?

WITH many business owners opting to have their employees return to the office full-time following months of working from home, the risk of employee burnout has never been greater.

This sentiment isn’t lost on Australian employees, as new data from Employsure’s advice line for small business owners shows a 40 percent increase in employee management calls since the start of the year. While some employers  are choosing a hybrid work model, there is talk about the possibility of a four-day work as an alternative to combat burnout.

A number of countries have recently trialled a four-day work week this year, including Spain and Iceland.

Similar trials have taken place within private companies across the world over the past few years, most notably at Unilever and Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand. Perpetual Guardian made the four-day work week a permanent option for all full-time workers, after it reportedly recorded a 20 percent increase in staff productivity.

As measures such as working from home, or limited office contact days, have become more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are showing they are able to be productive when given the right tools and environments to work in.

“In Australia, the pandemic has shaken up our perception of a typical work week. With more people working, or preferring to work from home post-lockdown, the argument for a four-day work week has never been stronger,” Employsure business partner Emma Dawson said.

“According to academics who observed the four-day work week trial at Perpetual Guardian, staff had a higher level of job satisfaction, which resulted in lower stress levels, greater productivity, and an improved sense of work-life balance.

“A way of recording this with already existing measures in Australia is to look at the several weeks in a year that have a public holiday in them. Anyone who has ever been part of a team who know they have an extra day off in the week will agree the mood is more positive. In an office environment, employees buckle down, cram their work for the week into four days, and then relax knowing they won’t have to do look at a computer screen again for several days.

“If this applied to workers all year, they would essentially get 50 extra days in the year to better handle their work-life balance. Parents would be able to spend more time with their children, work on projects around the house, travel to more places on the weekend. By the time the work week comes back around, they would be more rested and rejuvenated to take on the next four days of work.

“A fully paid four-day work week would be one employees would get on board with, assuming they are paid at the same rate as a 40-hour work week. While the fantasy of only working four days a week is enticing, a large number of workers would most likely reject it if it meant a decrease in wages.”

The realities of a four-day work week however would ultimately have its drawbacks. As employers have seen over the past nearly two years with employees working from home instead of heading into their workplace, it has a knock-on effect for surrounding businesses. For every worker that stays home, that’s one less coffee potentially sold at the local café, one less meal, one less beer.

There would also be many barriers if a four-day work week were to be introduced into Australia; the most obvious being financial. If employees were paid a full week for four days of work, the question of who pays for that fifth day remains.

If a trial was to be implemented in Australia, it would realistically be similar to those held in New Zealand where the company holding the trial foots the bill. If employers were to trial a four-day work week in their own business, they would need to budget for this.

Employers would also have to give workers the option to opt into a trial first.

At Perpetual Guardian, employees were given the option on whether or not to take part. Those who chose not to were still offered flexible working options such as starting or finishing early.

“Employee satisfaction and boosted productivity sounds appealing, but can the benefits outweigh the cost? Employers must be pragmatic and analyse whether four days of work will still generate them five days’ worth of profit,” Ms Dawson said.

“While a post-Covid world is an ideal time to shake up the typical work week formula, ultimately it comes down to cost. If a four-day work week is something that could work in Australia, it can realistically only be achieved once businesses and the Federal Government have fully recovered from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.”

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Ombudsman supports Outstanding Western Sydney Women Awards

THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson is proud to support this year’s Outstanding Western Sydney Women Awards to be hosted on November 16, 2021, with a stellar line-up of finalists announced.

“I’m encouraged to see so many exceptional women-owned and women-led businesses recognised at this premier event,” Mr Billson said. 

“The pandemic has generated a new era of enterprising women who are trailblazing their own paths to success.

“They’re community leaders, entrepreneurs and tradies – and they deserve this recognition for the brilliant work they do.

“My office is honoured to get behind the awards and the efforts of Western Sydney Women, which aims to help women in the region advance their businesses and career paths and provide a network of support for each other," Mr Billson said.

“Our Small Business Counts report shows more than 35 percent of Australian small businesses are female-led. In fact, two-thirds of new businesses formed are led by women. That has been rising steadily since the 1990s but certainly more can be done to support women in business.

“Research tell us that the most successful start-ups are created by those who have a network or mentors for support.

“That’s why organisations such as Western Sydney Women are so important in creating a critical mass of female entrepreneurial role models.

“I look forward to celebrating the achievements of these outstanding Western Sydney Women on 16 November.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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Veterans struggling to find employment given free training to build new technology careers

VETERANS finding themselves unable to transition from the military to civilian careers can now access free training and some of the most sought-after technology jobs in Australia.

WithYouWithMe (WYWM) has partnered with Commonwealth Bank to provide customers who are veterans with access to free courses in some of today’s most in-demand technology skills. Accessible through the Benefits finder feature in the CommBank app, veteran customers will be able to explore new careers in highly sought-after fields including cyber security, digital project management, robotic process automation and software development.

The WYWM Potential website offers military-grade online testing to identify the courses most suited to the user’s aptitude and abilities, in addition to jobs and new careers available upon finishing their selected course.

WYWM chief executive officer, Tom Moore, said the training and software company was excited to be collaborating with Commonwealth Bank to help veterans gain access to new digital skills and technology careers.

“We at WithYouWithMe know that many veterans struggle to find meaningful employment which just isn’t right; and we want to do something about it. We’re proud to be partnering with Commonwealth Bank to enable more veterans to gain access to our high-quality aptitude testing, technology training courses, and career opportunities,” Mr Moore said.

CBA’s head of financial wellbeing, Ben Grauer, said the bank was proud to collaborate with WYWM to connect customers who are veterans with WYWM’s services.

“At the bank we’re always thinking about what we can do to help improve financial wellbeing and Benefits finder helps customers access and claim benefits and rebates they may not know about and be entitled to. By including benefits that are available from WYWM in the CommBank app feature we’re able to offer personalised support to help more veterans upskill and prepare them for the next stage of their career and beyond,” he said.

Access to the WYWM platform will be available to Commonwealth Bank customers through Benefits finder from November 15.

For further information contact: Jay Munro, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +61 401 510 703

About WithYouWithMe

WithYouWithMe (WYWM) is a social impact software and technology company, focused on solving underemployment and building the technology workforce of the future. Offering free training in some of the most in-demand technology fields, WYWM aims to assist underrepresented communities in building their new skills and careers in just weeks rather than years; then facilitating recruitment and hiring of newly job-ready technologists with some of the world’s leading org anisations. With a presence in Australia, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, WYWM has already helped more than 20,000 veterans and others with their technology career transitions. www.withyouwithme.com

About Benefits finder

The Benefits finder feature can be accessed via the CommBank app and NetBank. Customers are asked to answer five simple questions, with answers determining what benefits or rebates they may be eligible to claim. Customers are provided with details on each benefit or rebate, including how much they may be able to claim and instructions on how to claim, and are then directed to the relevant website to start the claim. The Benefits finder feature was developed as part of the ongoing collaboration between CBA and Harvard University’s STAR (Sustainability, Transparency and Accountability Research) Lab. www.commbank.com.au/digital-banking/benefits-finder.

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Corporate engagement with Indigenous consumers reviewed

HOW the corporate sector establishes models of best practice to foster better engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers will be the focus of a new inquiry by the House Indigenous Affairs Committee.

Recent major corporate scandals in relation to the treatment of Indigenous people including organisations such as Rio Tinto, Telstra, and Woolworths, indicate that corporate Australia needs to walk the walk and talk the talk in relation to reconciliation.

The committee will be looking at the role played by corporate Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) in assisting with these engagements and practices.

"Reconciliation Australia has done a great job with their reconciliation plan process," Committee Chair Julian Leeser MP said. "The purpose of this inquiry is to look at ways in which these kinds of plans can be strengthened and ways in which a greater corporate commitment to reconciliation can be achieved.

“There have been some shocking high profile examples of major Australian companies failing to meet expected standards when dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The $50 million dollar penalty imposed on Telstra earlier this year for unconscionable sales of unaffordable mobile phone plans to vulnerable Indigenous customers is one such example.

"This and other cases indicate that significant gaps still remain in the corporate sector’s understanding of the needs of Indigenous people and the barriers that many of them face. This is true even among businesses that have a RAP in place and have done some good things in relation to Indigenous engagement," Mr Leeser said.

The Committee will report by March 31, 2022.

For more information about this inquiry, including its terms of reference, details of upcoming public hearings, and instructions on making a submission, visit the Inquiry webpage. Track the committee to receive email updates on the inquiry by clicking the blue ‘Track Committee’ button.

The terms of reference of the inquiry are:

  1. The way the corporate sector supports meaningful engagement with Indigenous consumers.
  2. How to strengthen corporate sector cultural understanding, and how this is demonstrated through their engagement with Indigenous consumers.
  3. The impact of Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) in developing targeted approaches on engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through such actions.
  4. Other matters as required.

 

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