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Big push to give Aussies five weeks of leave

Travelers with luggage using smart phones while waiting in line for boarding at airport. Focus on wheeled luggage.
More holidays are on the cards if workers are given five weeks of leave. Picture: iStock

Business experts are sharing their support for a push to give Australian workers five weeks of leave to ease burnout in employees.

The renewed push comes as unions unite to campaign for the National Employment Standards to be updated with provisions to give employees five weeks of leave.

Initiated by the powerful Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA), the campaign also calls for casual loading to be increased to 27.5 per cent to make up for the increased paid leave permanent employees would receive under the changes.

To date, Big W and Apple employees have five weeks of leave through enterprise agreements cemented through the SDA.


Bond Business School assistant professor of organisational behaviour Libby Sandor said the move would help both employees and employers reduce burnout while maintaining productivity.

“We know that burnout and stress are at record highs among employees. Seventy-four per cent of Australians are thinking about looking for a new job and stress and burnout are a big part of that,” she told 3AW.

“A lot of companies are struggling to attract and keep good workers and longer and longer hours actually don’t make us more productive, they make us less productive.”

Travelers with luggage using smart phones while waiting in line for boarding at airport. Focus on wheeled luggage.
Unions will push for employees to have a minimum of five weeks of leave.

Workplace futurist Kim Sealing Smith also told Today that she was in favour of a “use it or lose it” approach so workers didn’t bank the leave that would impact businesses.

“I totally agree with the use it or lose it (way) … the Aussie way is to bank all of that leave and then go on a big holiday because we’re so far away from everybody,” she said.

“But that carries a huge burden for companies and it doesn’t solve the problem of fatigue and burnout, which is really what we need to address.”

She likened the increased leave as an “olive branch” to workers amid a cost-of-living crisis and wages that have failed to keep up with inflation.

“Workers aren’t happy, there’s burnout, there’s exhaustion, there’s the cost-of-living crisis. Wages have failed to grow with inflation,” she said.

“This is sort of an olive branch.”

However, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief of policy and advocacy David Alexander warned against a “one-size-fits-all approach,” and said he believed the current standard four weeks of leave “works pretty well”.

“That would be very difficult for many, many business because essentially this edict would be removing labour for your workforce, leaving you potentially high and dry and having to fill that gap with other workers or just producing less,” he said on Today.

“Either way, that’s a bad situation for those businesses.”