10 December 2021

APS parental leave changes on way after review announced

| Ian Bushnell
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Woman and baby

The review will look at how to provide parents with more choice in dividing their caregiving roles and balancing women’s economic and child-rearing decisions. Photo: File.

The first substantial review of public service maternity leave in 40 years will look at broadening eligibility, extending entitlements and providing more flexibility around how leave can be taken.

Australian Public Service Commissioner Peter Woolcott yesterday (10 December) announced the start of a review of the Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act first legislated in 1973 by the Whitlam Labor Government.

Mr Woolcott said the review, which will compare the current entitlement with those in the private sector and state and territory public services, would help ensure the APS remained competitive to attract and retain 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 now and into the future,” Mr Woolcott said.

According to the terms of reference, the review will consider how to provide parents with more choice in dividing their caregiving roles and balancing women’s economic and child-rearing decisions.

It will look at whether leave could be taken to allow part-time work arrangements or taken in broken periods over a more extended period than 52 weeks.

Giving agencies more discretion to grant leave for health issues such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and other serious neonatal health concerns is also on the table.

The review will consider leave for parents other than birth mothers such as adoptive parents, long-term foster parents, supporting partners and other permanent carers.

READ ALSO APS Census reveals the most – and least – satisfied and engaged staff in the public service

It will also look at relevant enterprise agreement terms related to arrangements for salary increments, availability of leave for obstetric appointments, and payment of superannuation during maternity or parental leave.

The review will look at ways to make the parental leave system easier to understand and simpler to administer.

Mr Woolcott said the review would be informed by extensive stakeholder consultation and submissions from the public.

He said the review team was eager to hear from the broader community.

“Submissions to the review are open. I encourage anyone with an interest in this issue to make a submission,” Mr Woolcott said.

The review will report its findings and recommendations to government in early 2022.

To learn more or make a submission, visit the review page.

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It has been claimed that maternity leave is one of the significant contributors to the wage gap between men and women. i.e. A man starting the same job at the same time may be more experienced and senior because they don’t take as much time off work looking after babies.

We have also been told that quotas work when trying to boost participation of underrepresented groups.

So surely it would be a fair idea to have baby leave, which is leave for the carer of the baby, completely ignoring the gender of the carer.
And then have a quota for men taking this leave to get the numbers up.

Of course it could lead to crazy situations where a couple has the woman’s request for leave denied because her company has exceeded its quota of women taking baby caring leave and insist that her husband take the leave instead. But quotas work and are fair (or so we are told) so it shouldn’t be a big problem.

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