This workshop proposes to bring together key researchers in the field of work and family research to review the latest international and national research evidence on nine critical aspects of work and family policy, and prepare a set of evidence-based benchmarks against which to evaluate Australian policy over the next five years in this domain. The nine main themes of the workshop are:

  1. Childcare
  2. Paid parental leave
  3. Support for sole mothers
  4. Support for older workers
  5. Support for working carers
  6. Working time regulation
  7. Pay equity
  8. Tax, benefits and superannuation
  9. Workplace leadership and culture


Changing patterns of labour market participation are having profound effects on Australian society. Women’s labour market participation is growing, men’s is falling, the participation of older workers is on the rise, and more and more workers combine simultaneous paid work and care responsibilities. This has implications for the quality of life for men, women and children. It also has implications for productivity and economic growth. These implications drive a high level of public policy activity in Australia. It is vital that this public policy activity and reform is informed by current social science research and policy.

The Work + Family Policy Roundtable (WFPR) was formed in 2006 to help build a stronger bridge between social science research and policy in the domain of work and family. It is comprised of 28 academic experts, drawn from 16 universities and research institutions. All Roundtable members are recently published and have national reputations in relation to work and family research.

Workshop themes and structure

The proposed workshop brings together 16 members of the WFPR, along with 4 early career researchers (each undertaking a PhD at present) to review the current body of research evidence on each of the above nine themes, develop policy proposals which reflect the existing body of knowledge in relation to each, and craft a set of ‘Benchmarks’ against with future policy proposals might be considered. These ‘Benchmarks’ will be designed to evaluate policy changes against best practice policy principles based on research evidence about effective and equitable ways to balance work and family responsibilities in Australia. They will incorporate attention to policy changes that increase gender and socio-economic equality, based on international evidence which assists these goals in each policy theme.

The workshop will begin on Wednesday afternoon at 1pm, with an opening general discussion about the state, advances, limitations, methods and new knowledge that is emergent in relation to work and family research, concentrating upon research in the OECD area.

Specifically, material arising from the inaugural international Work and Family Researchers Network, which was convened in New York in July 2012, will be discussed, drawing on the experiences of participants A/ Prof Strazdins, Prof Pocock FASSA, Prof Baird and ECR Hutchinson, who were in attendance and presented at this inaugural international gathering. In addition, issues raised at the annual symposium, attended by A/Prof Charlesworth in Sept 2012, of the UK Family and Work Net in London which included an appraisal of EU developments will also be presented.

The purpose of this first session is to have an open discussion about cutting edge research in the general field, the methods being applied, gaps in knowledge and new themes of research and findings that the Roundtable might consider incorporating in its subsequent discussions, research program and policy recommendations. This will be followed by a dinner.

Day 2 consists of presentations by lead researchers in relation to each of the nine key themes of the workshop. These presentations will be based on pre-circulated short papers which state the current key research findings and policy directions arising from recent research, are as follows:

  1. Childcare – Prof Brennan FASSA
  2. Paid parental leave – Prof Baird, Prof Whitehouse
  3. Support for sole mothers – Dr Dina Bowman, Brotherhood of St Laurence
  4. Support for older workers – Prof Bettina Cass FASSA
  5. Support for working carers – A/Prof Siobhan Austen
  6. Working time regulation – A/Prof Sara Charlesworth
  7. Pay equity – Prof Trish Todd
  8. Tax, benefits and superannuation – Dr Elizabeth Hill and A/Prof Therese Jefferson
  9. Workplace leadership and culture – Prof Barbara Pocock FASSA

Given the national electoral cycle in Australia, and the prominence of work and family issues in the past four national elections, it is vital that this workshop is held well before the 2013 federal election, to ensure that the latest research evidence has as much bearing as possible on the development and discussion of policy proposals.

It is proposed that the ‘Benchmarks’ arising from the workshop will be drawn together into a succinct document which will be publicly available both from the website of the individual participants and their institutions, but also from the WFPR website. The research evidence supporting these Benchmarks, as presented in the nine short research papers, will be appended to the Benchmarks, so that the published document demonstrates the relationship between research and the development of policy principles, through research/policy engagement The group of workshop attendees have a well-established track record in developing such documents, ensuring they reach a wide audience of policy makers and other researchers, and have an impact upon policy and future research.

The WFPR does not receive any funding from other sources. Its activities are supported by the individual participants. In this light, funding of the proposed workshop will enable the conduct of a timely, high quality workshop, linking social science research to policy impact, in an area of great significance in Australian life at present. Its participants include a group of highly qualified and experienced researchers, as well as early career researchers.