Defence ‘interdependency’ update: equal treatment, no member disadvantaged

By Harley Dennett

Wednesday May 18, 2016

Commencing July 1 this year, the Australian Defence Force’s married and unmarried couples will have the same requirements and process for recognition of their relationship and access to benefits.

A DEFGRAM on Tuesday announced the intent of the policy change, while the final details of implementation are still being finalised.

Now, similar to other Commonwealth Departments, the process will align to those for married couples, requiring one piece of evidence for benefits eligibility.

The department says its new policy is designed to ensure compliance with legislation and demonstrating Defence’s commitment to fostering an inclusive workforce that delivers enhanced capability for Australia.

“We also wish to be clear to those joining the ADF that our policies are aligned with the Australian community.”

Acting Defence chief Vice Admiral Ray Griggs said the change reflects the Australian community’s expectations of its Defence Force:

“Defence is committed to policies that support a contemporary and diverse workforce. This policy change ensures equity in accessing conditions to those that serve in the ADF. We also wish to be clear to those joining the ADF that our policies are aligned with the Australian community,” Griggs told The Mandarin in a statement.

Language previously referring to interdependent partners will now simply use the term “partners”.

Rebecca Skinner, the department’s deputy secretary for Defence People Group said decision makers will generally only need to see one piece of evidence of the relationship to make a decision, and that single piece of evidence can include relationship certificates issued by state and territory governments. Policy previously required four pieces of evidence, and it was unclear to commanders if 90 days of continuous cohabitation was required — that requirement has been explicitly dropped.

Defence will also have the ability to impose a change in member’s benefits if it becomes aware of a change in the relationship. This may include members providing incorrect information about their relationship. Members should notify their chain of command within 14 days of a change.

It also gives Defence the ability to look behind the paperwork to ensure the dependants of a member are not disadvantaged by the member’s failure to apply for benefits.

Other changes include benefits associated with child dependency, to cover children in an ADF member’s care by permanent court order, and so eligibility can be based on the family’s anticipated living arrangements — important for Defence families where children may move with the member or live with other relatives or carers for consistent schooling.

Skinner say further information will be provided to ADF members in the coming months. Defence People Group is coordinating with services and stakeholders on communicating the changes.

It is important that the information and fact sheets provided to our ADF members are clear and support the best implementation of this important policy,” Skinner told The Mandarin.

Reading more at The Mandarin: End of discrimination against unwed employees?

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