CANBERRA, AAP – Retail workers are juggling unpredictable hours, child care and struggling to meet ends meet, according to a major union-commissioned study

The University of New South Wales Social Policy Research Centre on Tuesday released a report based on a survey of 6469 Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association members.

It found workers lacked genuine choice about their working times and childcare arrangements with current settings making it hard to organise shifts around family lives.

About 40 per cent of respondents worked the same shifts each week – 48 per cent of fathers and 37 per cent of mothers – and one-in-10 parents did not have regular work days.

More than 62 per cent said it was stressful trying to organise child care around work times.

Of those with a child aged 12 or under, 37 per cent of mothers and 42 per cent of fathers agreed or strongly agreed rosters impacted on mental health.

Among parents with a child 12 or under, 43 per cent of mothers and 35 per cent of fathers reported wanting to work more hours, but access to suitable child care was a barrier.

Queensland supermarket worker Margaret, who works 36 hours a week, drops her five-year-old son at daycare at 6.30am most days.

She says the needs of the business she works for are put ahead of family time.

“I don’t feel valued as an essential worker. I find that you work hard, you go through your designated time for your break,” Margaret said.

“You start to make things a little bit easier for yourself and put in a little bit of extra time at the beginning and all you get is ‘that’s what happens when it’s busy’.”

Financial security also emerged as an issue with 55 per cent of workers surveyed taking home less than $1000 a week after tax.

About half of parents found wages were too low to meet their needs, while 57 per cent of permanent full-time employees said they worked enough hours to make a living reflecting low hourly rates.

Australian Retailers’ Association chief executive Paul Zahra said he wanted to work with unions and government to find solutions to problems the report highlighted.

“It’s been exceptionally confronting. Those testimonials are concerning,” he said.

“It’s in all of our interests to solve these issues”

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said many workers involved in the study were employed by major companies.

She argued the firms used sophisticated technology throughout their business but weren’t applying the same systems to guaranteeing predictable hours.