In December 2015 the Australian Senate called for submissions on proposals that would allow all employees to maintain their long service leave entitlements when they transferred between jobs or took breaks in employment. The ANMF has provided our views on these issues and our submission can be read in full here.
At present the measures for the accrual and taking of long service leave entitlements are a bit of a dog’s breakfast.
There is presently a significant degree of variation between different states and territories in terms of the accrual of long service leave. The minimum length of service required to activate the entitlement to accrue and take long service leave ranges from seven years in the Australian Capital Territory to 15 years in Tasmania.
In most industries long service leave cannot be transferred on ceasing or changing employment, even where the change involves a transfer within the same industry and locality. In a minority of industries, however, long service leave does transfer with the worker. The source of the entitlement also varies, and can be created by award, industrial agreement or statute. These inconsistencies are confusing and inequitable.
In recent times, it has been recognised that employees in some industries suffer adverse consequences in terms of their entitlement to accrue long service leave as a result of qualities specific to the industry in which they work. For example, workers within the building and construction, coal mining and cleaning industries have been protected through the introduction of portable long service leave schemes which allow employees to take their long service leave entitlements when they move from one employer to another.
For nurses and midwives there is presently little opportunity to take transfer leave entitlements beyond the public hospital sectors in some states or territories. In its submission ANMF have argued these restrictions deeply disadvantage nurses and midwives and should be remedied.
The ideal position for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing is a flexible, seamless health system in which moving employment between employers can be achieved without losing entitlements or having to ‘cash them out’ when it is not the intention to either cease employment or to take LSL at that point.
ANMF supports the establishment of a portable LSL scheme to cover all nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing across the health industry (broadly defined), including public and private acute health, public and private aged care and the community sector.
Our support for such a scheme is based on a range of reasons including that:
- Nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing are employed in the nursing/health industries for all of their working lives in most cases. It makes sense that long service leave is based on service to the industry, not service to a particular employer.
- The common funding source of most health providers is either state or Commonwealth funding (and health insurance in the private sector) and it would be relatively easy administratively to establish provided there was sufficient seed funding.
- It is desirable to ensure that there are minimal barriers to mobility for nursing care staff both within the public sector and between the public sector and the private sectors (including both the for-profit and not-for-profit health and aged care providers). Lack of portability of LSL creates an artificial barrier which acts as a disincentive to move and potential discrimination when nurses do move employment.
- A significant minority of nurses and midwives are employed in two or more jobs – about 10% of the workforce.
- Lack of portability affects the ability for nursing care staff to take career breaks, especially to re-skill and up-skill which is becoming increasingly important in the health industry.
- The lack of true portability disadvantages women in particular, especially those who take a short career break beyond paid and unpaid parental leave provided under industrial instruments, to be the primary carer for a child or children or (b) increasingly, to look after ageing parents.
The ANMF has called on the Parliament to recognise that the changes to employment arrangements for many workers has meant that access to long service leave is becoming a distant goal. Parliament needs to legislate for portable long service leave schemes to protect this important entitlement for all workers and to recognise that long service leave arrangements need to move from being based on service with one employer, to service in an industry or profession, with the accrual and access of entitlements being completely portable.
Senior Federal Industrial Officer