Policy Submissions

Submission to the Fair Work Commission’s Penalty Rates Review

9 Sep 15

ATTACHMENT: Submission made 4 September 2015

We live in a society where educational attainment increasingly means the difference between employment or unemployment and welfare dependence. We cannot ignore that more people than ever before are enrolling in higher education and that even more will be in the future. With more people than ever before attending university broad national issues are going to have an impact university students and the penalty rates matter is currently one of those issues.

Penalty rates are an issue for university student in Australia, and those undertaking postgraduate level qualification from Coursework Masters to Doctoral (PhD) degrees. The challenges facing these students are many, but in this case it is the complex relationship between income support, work and study in the lives of postgraduate students which we will focus on.

Both work and study can be immensely stressful, short deadlines and long hours are a common feature of challenging and rewarding pursuit. But to work and study together can turn a manageable arrangement in a disaster.

This report presents information on a number of key issues in regards to the Penalty Rates Common Matter AM 2014 305 and its importance to postgraduate students, three key arguments will be made:

  1. That the diversity of the postgraduate student cohort means that it will be impacted by a change in penalty rates.
  2. That postgraduates at all levels are in need of better income support arrangements in Australia, and when this is lacking they must balance a life of work and study.
  3. Postgraduate students are already struggling the balance the inflexible requirements of work and study, changes to income streams such as penalty rates will make this even more difficult.

To support these arguments a small exploratory study has also been conducted and its results are included in the report. The study involved collecting case studies of students who are currently beneficiaries of penalty rates and require them in order to continue their studies. The report is structured as follows:

  • Postgraduates are not your average student
  • Postgraduate under financial stress
  • Work-study balance is a struggle
  • Case studies of current postgraduates
  • Conclusions

All submissions can be found on the Fair Work Commissions website