Mothers in mining recognised

A GOVERNMENT report into balancing work and family has acknowledged the obstacles faced by women returning to work in professions with non-traditional working hours such as mining, according to the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.
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Staff Reporter

The mine industry body praised the government report that has recommended making the costs of home-based child care tax deductible.

Non-standard working hours have long been a hallmark of the mining industry, making the challenge of finding flexible and affordable child care arrangements especially difficult. The industry’s non-standard hours have meant that for many working mothers the only viable child care option has been high-cost home care.

AusIMM said the report’s recommendation to make child care costs – including nanny wages – tax deductible was a positive step forward as it was recognition of child care being an essential cost of working. The group also said the recommendation would help to alleviate financial stress on women wanting to return to their profession after they had children.

Currently, child care expenses are not tax deductible except by way of salary sacrifice, which is available only to employers who run their own child care centres on their own premises, something few employers offer.

The majority of businesses do not operate onsite child care facilities, with many mine companies considering company-run child care facilities to be an unjustified risk due, in part, to the relatively small number of female employees.

This situation further exacerbates the problem as without suitable child care arrangements, few women are inclined to return to their professions in the mine industry, AusIMM said.

By including home-based child care as a deduction, working mothers will have an opportunity to break this cycle.

“During a time of skills shortage, breaking the cycle of systemic barriers of women’s participation in our leading export industry should be a priority for the Federal Government,” AusIMM policy coordinator Monika Sarder said.

“Otherwise the industry will miss out on one half of the value adding potential of the Australian population.”

There are clear economic reasons to maximise participation in the minerals industry with ABS statistics showing that the average minerals sector professional contributed $A337,000 to GDP per annum, versus an average of $72,600 for the economy per employee.

AusIMM’s own research indicated that availability of quality child care was essential to retaining women professionals, not just to free up their time but also to ensure their job satisfaction.