First in 40 years: Commission reviews APS parental leave

By Jackson Graham

Sunday December 12, 2021

business people-parental leave
The Maternity Leave Act overseeing APS parental leave is to be reviewed. (bluraz/Adobe)

The Australian Public Service Commission is undertaking its first significant review of parental leave in more than four decades. 

APS commissioner Peter Woolcott says the review of the Maternity Leave Act will draw on views from the broader community and stakeholders. 

The review is set to consider how current entitlements compare to those in the private sector and state and territory public services, and whether the APS entitlements are consistent with government policy. 

Also in the review’s line of sight will be payment of superannuation during maternity or parental leave, enterprise agreement terms that impact people going on leave including salary increments and leave for obstetric appointments. 

The review is aimed at agencies and departments retaining and attracting staff, Woolcott says. 

“This review of our parental leave entitlements will ensure the Australian Public Service continues to be an employer of choice and is well equipped to offer working parents an opportunity to serve the Australian public now and into the future,” he said in a statement

Provisions for parents other than birth mothers – such as adoptive parents, long-term foster parents, supporting partners and other permanent carers – will also feature in the review. 

The Act’s potential to enable gender equality and inclusion are among the APSC’s focuses, including giving parents more choice in dividing caregiving, and women’s economic empowerment with considerations around maternal and child health. 

The reviewers will consider how the entitlements interact with part-time, casual work and periods of leave without pay, and options for the leave to facilitate part-time work arrangements or be taken in broken periods exceeding a year.

People can make a submission to the review online, with the commission to report its findings to government in early 2022. 

Melissa Donnelly, CPSU national secretary, said expectations had significantly changed since the Act was legislated in 1973. 

“This is an opportunity for equity, by ensuring that both parents can access paid leave to care for children, for paid leave to cover both parents regardless of gender, and for leave to extend to foster and adoption arrangements,” Donnelly said. 

“The Maternity Leave Act Review must also update the antiquated language of the current Act.” 

She said members had fought for an won improvements on the minimum legislated rights through enterprise agreements, and the union did not want the review to wind back any of those rights. 

“It is essential that no worker will be left worse off by this review,” Donnelly said. 

“This review was included in the newly released Gender Equality Strategy; and the union will be arguing strongly that any changes should improve rights and not take any employee backwards.”


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