The work dilemma


Is the cost of child care stopping some pharmacists from working full time? One MP believes it is

There has been a lot of discussion about the economic impacts of the pandemic being more heavily felt by women. Parliament has heard about how it has affected one female pharmacist. 

Speaking in Parliament this week, Lisa Chesters, MP for Bendigo (ALP) spoke about women’s need for workforce flexibility and security, especially to balance the cost and demands of child care.

“We have a childcare system that disproportionately affects women, who tend to be the second income earner in households,” she said.

Ms Chesters discussed the case of a local pharmacist who had raised the issue with her.

“She said that, during the pandemic, her employer asked her to work more hours. She has two children in early childhood education. She actually paid to work. She thought it was her duty to work—it was a pandemic—but it cost her family money to ensure that she turned up and did her role for her community as a pharmacist.”

“The cost of child care actually meant they were paying to work, ” she said.

“A nurse, for whom I raised a question in parliament, said she would like to take the third and fourth day, but can’t. These are the people that the government are saying are high income earners. Their means test is too mean. It is excluding nurses from taking that extra shift and the pharmacist from working full-time”.

“This government’s means testing is targeting women. It’s excluding women from working full time, if they choose to,” she said.

“If we are genuine about women having choices and flexibility, then don’t lock them into part-time work by a means test that means they can only work a couple of days. Ensure that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

While pharmacy pay has gone up this year, there has been continual criticism of the impact on female pharmacists of relatively low rates of pay, difficult hours of work and penalty rate cuts

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said: “The cost and availability of childcare is an issue for young families across all industries and all businesses. Ideally, the cost of childcare should not be an impediment to females or males doing more work or longer hours as they choose, but unfortunately as a society we haven’t yet come up with a formula that achieves that ideal”.

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