The Matildas are international football champions and currently sit atop of the Australian national sporting teams. They are ranked 5th in the world for women’s soccer, compared to the Socceroos, Australia’s male counterparts, who are ranked 50th in the world. Despite this outstanding achievement, they have not received the same financial support or work environment.

They have now entered into an enterprise bargaining agreement that allows them to receive a wage above minimum pay. However, there are still areas of concern regarding a lack of financial and employer support. As of earlier this month, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard the case of Heather Garriock, a former Matilda’s star. We set out the Tribunal’s decision below as well as flexible work arrangements for athletes. 

Garriock v Football Federation Australia

Ms Garriock went on an international tour in 2013 where she was paid $150 a day and $500 per match if selected for the game. She was informed with late notice that she had been chosen for the team on that tour and had to pay airfare and accommodation for her mother to look after her baby while she was away. The cost of this ended up being almost double the amount she actually earned on tour.

Under Australian law, however, it is not an employers’ responsibility to pay child care costs, although some athletes do receive assistance from their respective sporting authorities. The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, therefore, dismissed her case, saying that this type of financial support was not part of the collective bargaining agreement the Matildas had with Football Federation Australia and she did not have an individual contract.

While she did not get the result she was hoping for, Ms Garriock maintains that this is an important issue for the Federation to consider to support its female athletes and provide a family supportive working environment.

Considerations for Flexible Working Arrangements

It is clear that this is a complicated issue for employers when it comes to maintaining consistent workflow and revenue while also being supportive of employee’s flexible arrangements and work-life balance. Balancing work and home commitments can be particularly challenging for mums wishing to get back into the workforce while still taking care of a family. Like Ms Garriock’s situation, the cost of childcare can be expensive, particularly when considering the small income she was earning at the time.

For employers to be able to take advantage of the skills and experience of individuals returning to the workforce, there needs to be some give and take and a supportive work environment will go a long way. Allowing employees to work from home, if possible, and attend meetings by teleconference, will enable them to maintain that balance. Similarly, allowing employees to work around family commitments, such as taking and picking up the kids from school, will encourage greater enjoyment and productivity while at work.

These kind of flexible arrangements are of course distinct to specific industries that don’t require attendance at a particular location or for a particular service. However, for those workers who really only need a computer to do their job, this could mean the difference between staying or seeking employment elsewhere. While it is certainly not required for employers to assist employees with child care costs, providing them with the type of arrangement where they won’t always need it will help keep workers happy.

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At the end of the day, it is your business and your way of making an income so you need to work out how best to support your employees while generating a profit Having these issues in mind will help you pick the most suitable and skilled employees for your needs.

What do you think? Tag us on Twitter @legalvision_au or get in touch with our employment team and let us know.

Bianca Reynolds

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