Building a better business culture for Australia’s children
19 June 2019 at 5:12 pm
Australia is being urged to better protect kids from harmful business practices, with a UNICEF report outlining major policy gaps leaving children vulnerable.
UNICEF examined various Australian laws affecting businesses, from marketing and advertising restrictions and child labour protections, to family-friendly employment conditions and parental leave access.
While there were areas of good practice from the Australian government, the report found key gaps requiring better regulation to ensure businesses were holding up children’s rights in their operations locally and overseas.
“Children are regularly affected by the operations of businesses – they are consumers of goods, services, and advertising, they can be workers in shops, restaurants and offices, and they are community members affected by business decisions made both near and far,” report author Alison Elliott said.
“The treatment of parents and carers as employees also affects family life and children’s experiences growing up.”
Currently in Australia, new mothers can only access 18 weeks of paid leave – well below the average paid parental leave period provided by OECD countries – and UNICEF Australia has called for this to be increased to at least 26 weeks.
The main recommendation of the report is for Australia to emulate 23 countries around the world by adopting a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
These plans aim to help a country achieve the business-related targets in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and could include specific, measurable commitments to better protect children and their carers from harmful business activities.
“Adopting a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, like those other countries have, would help Australia continue to foster a sustainable and ethical business sector, while protecting members of the community, including children and young people,” Elliott said.
“It functions as an official commitment to policies and regulations, as well as a plan of action.”
The report made 10 further recommendations to address other major gaps in Australian policy, including issues with advertising regulations for unhealthy food and drinks, weak protections against child labour, and limited financial security for employees and their children suffering family violence.
Elliott said the report offered a starting point for governments to consider children and families when setting the rules of engagement for business.
“As globalisation intensifies, governments are increasingly doing more to require, and to assist, businesses to take action to respect human rights… Yet a child rights perspective has not yet been explicitly considered,” she said.
“This is despite the fact that almost all practices in the business world impact upon children, either directly or indirectly.”