Greens rally behind call for national portable long service leave scheme

Calls for a national portable long service leave scheme have been renewed this week, with the Greens asking a federal parliamentary committee to investigate how such a scheme could work.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has given notice she intends to refer the matter to the Education and Employment References Committee to conduct an in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of a nationwide scheme.

It comes after public policy think tank the McKell Institute published a report last year calling for a national scheme as a way of boosting workplace productivity and tackling the issue of workplace stress.

Rhiannon will call for the parliamentary committee to examine the creation of a national program, taking into account “the number of Australian workers in insecure work”, as well as “increased workplace mobility and increasingly precarious conditions”.

Rhiannon will propose the committee complete its inquiry by November and offer recommendations as to how a national scheme could be funded and implemented, how it would interact with existing state-based portable long service leave schemes, and who would be responsible for co-ordinating the scheme.

Greens MP and industrial relations spokesperson Adam Bandt told SmartCompany in a statement portable long service leave “should be a reward for every Australian employee after 10 years’ work”.

“The increase in movement between employers and the casualisation of the workforce makes portable long service leave an important and necessary modernisation of a traditional entitlement,” says Bandt.

“More than 90% of employment growth over the past 20 years has been in casual and contract work where long service leave is unavailable,” he says.

Bandt says making long service leave portable, and available to all Australian workers, would go a long way to improving work-life balance.

“Long service leave makes it possible for workers to take a much needed break every 10 years,” he says. “This would give every employee a chance to see Australia, reconnect with family and friends or just recharge their batteries after a decade of work.”

Bandt says industry specific portable long service leave schemes currently operate in most Australian states and territories for specific classes of workers, allowing workers to retain their leave entitlements when moving between different employers in the same industry. A form of portable long service leave also operates in many areas of the public service.

McKell Institute executive director Peter Bentley previously told SmartCompany long service leave is a workplace entitlement that is not being used as much as it should.

Bentley said three quarters of Australian workers do not stay with their employer for more than 10 years, meaning they are ineligible to take long service leave and making workers more prone to burnout.

“This isn’t because of increased disloyalty, but essentially the changing dynamic of the Australian workforce has made this uniquely Australian entitlement to become effectively redundant,” he said.

Bentley said recent surveys have shown more than 50% of Australian workers would prefer an extra two weeks’ annual leave to a pay rise, sparking the institute’s push for a nationwide long service leave scheme.

The McKell Institute recommended three potential models of a national portable long service leave scheme, including schemes modelled on the current superannuation system.


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