At least three groups are calling for the Australian Public Service to offer 26 weeks of paid leave to both partners after the birth or adoption of a child.
The Australian Public Service Commission is reviewing parental leave through the now-outdated Maternity Leave Act 1973, with findings to be reported to the federal government early this year.
Submissions to the review closed this month and the APSC will not make them public; however, some organisations have shared their submissions.
The Community and Public Sector Union, the Equality Rights Alliance and a shared submission from UNSW Canberra and the University of Sydney researchers have detailed expectations for 26 weeks of paid primary caregiver leave to be available to both partners.
This would bring the APS into line with the maximum amount of paid leave offered by many big private sector organisations, a submission from the CPSU shows.
“To reflect changing societal norms, different family structures and better promote gender equity in the workplace and home, the commonwealth public sector must provide employees a minimum of 26 weeks paid leave for each parent regardless of gender,” the union says.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies is currently the only APS agency that provides 26 weeks’ maternity leave under its EBA, while the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency provides 22 weeks.
Other agencies such as the APSC, Fair Work Commission, Treasury, and Australian Taxation Office, among others, provide 16 weeks’ maternity leave in employee agreements.
The union is also advocating for eight weeks of the paid leave entitlement for both parents to take concurrently within the first 12 months of birth, adoption or fostering.
The Equality Rights Alliance is urging the APSC to examine which federal agencies currently have the most “family-friendly” approaches to help set standards.
“The review should not undermine more generous enterprise agreements nor should reforms trade off [paid parental leave] scheme benefits for improvements in the public sector,” the alliance says.
The groups recommend the language in the Act should become gender-neutral to reflect the diversity of families in Australia.
UNSW Canberra Public Service Research Group’s Sue Williamson and University of Sydney’s professor Marian Baird wrote in a submission that superannuation should be paid for all people taking parental leave, including those receiving unpaid leave.
They also recommended for periods of unpaid parental leave count as service.
APS commissioner Peter Woolcott said last year the review was aimed at agencies and departments retaining and attracting staff.
“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,” he said.