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A first ever study into the challenges of work, family and care for workers in the retail industry

Arts, Design and Architecture
UNSW Sydney

In this first ever study of its kind into work, family and care in retail, a national survey of 6469 SDA members asked workers about how they manage their responsibilities to care for children and vulnerable adults; how workers arrange their care responsibilities while they are working; the challenges arising from employers’ working time practices and their engagement with Australia’s early education and care system.

The research found that formal systems and arrangements – at workplaces, in employment conditions, and at formal care and education services, were frequently failing to help families care for their children. Families with highly unpredictable rostering, widespread shift work and low incomes mean that retail workers struggle to access formal early education and care for their children, which tends to require regular bookings within standard work hours.

Alarmingly, as a result, many children of retail workers are missing out on early education. Across Australia, 95% of children participate in a preschool program for 15 hours per week before they start school. Among SDA members with a child starting school in 2022, only 72% said their child attended at least 15 hours of long day care, preschool, or kindergarten, where they might receive a preschool education.

This report outlines the experiences of retail workers in managing care, and how industrial relations, workplace practices and early education and care policies and systems might adapt to better meet the needs of these families. Read the report here: Challenges of Work, Family and Care for Australia’s Retail, Online Retail, Warehousing and Fast Food Workers

The SDA, the Union for Workers in Retail, Fast Food and Warehouseing, commissioned research from the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW Sydney.