Review recommends extending parental leave for APS employees

Existing APS maternity leave provisions no longer meet the needs of today’s employees, according to a review that recommends a rewriting of existing legislation to expand maternity and parental entitlements for Commonwealth public servants.

Peter Woolcott

The report makes a number of recommendations, including equal paid leave for both parents; providing pregnancy leave, miscarriage leave and premature birth leave; and using the term ‘pregnant employee’ rather than referring specifically to women in the new Act, which would be renamed the Pregnancy and Parental Leave Act.

The APSC this week released former Commissioner Peter Woolcott’s report on the review of the Commonwealth employees Maternity Leave Act, marking the first time public sector maternity leave provisions have been reviewed in four decades.

“While the Act was ground-breaking for its time by recognising that working women should not lose their employment once becoming pregnant and becoming a mother, community standards and expectations have evolved,” the report says.

“This report provides evidence that the Act no longer meets the needs of today’s employees as they establish families and maintain careers in Commonwealth employment.

“The Review has found that for the Australian Public Service to remain an employer of choice, a new Act is required.”

Key recommendations include:

  • Giving both parents access to two years of parental leave, including 18 weeks of paid leave which can be used flexibly over two years.
  • Providing parental leave for adoptive parents
  • Introducing paid pregnancy leave from six weeks before the due date
  • Introducing premature birth leave payable from the date of premature birth
  • Extending still birth entitlements
  • Introducing paid leave for pregnancy loss for both parents in the case of a miscarriage between 12  and 19 weeks
  • Providing paid lactation breaks
  • Superannuation to be paid on all forms of parental leave
  • Remove gendered language in the Act in favour of ‘pregnant employee’ and ‘pregnancy leave’

It comes as the APS attempts to remain competitive as an employer, provide more flexibility for public servants and reduce red tape.

The more than 190 submissions received during the review overwhelmingly called for equal provisions for mothers and father, payment of super on parental leave and more inclusive language, Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer said.

The review acknowledges that an increase in parental leave entitlements will likely mean additional cost to agencies.

“However, based on evidence gathered from extensive research… the Review concludes that in the long term these additional costs are likely to be offset by increased attraction and retention, increased performance and satisfaction of employees, and reduced administrative costs,” it says.

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