Public service’s PPL has uncertain future

by Chloe Taylor18 Jun 2015
Australian Public Service managers have been left uncertain about the future of their paid parental leave (PPL) schemes since the Abbott government announced cuts to its assistance program.

According to The Canberra Times, some Commonwealth departments have said that they are unable to finalise agreements for their workforces as they are yet to receive clear guidance from public service authorities.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has said that it has not known how to handle providing PPL entitlements for its staff since the announcement was made in May.

More than a month on, confusion is reportedly rife within the workforce of 160,000 people about what working parents will be entitled to after July 1.

Employees at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet are currently entitled to 14 weeks’ PPL, and can also access the government’s scheme which offers 18 weeks’ pay at the minimum wage to primary caregivers. 

Australian Public Service bargaining guidelines instruct departmental bosses to bargain PPL with regard to the availability of the minimum wage scheme – but these have not been updated since the announcement that accessing both would be prohibited.

Ben Neal, a senior departmental manager, told a Parliamentary Committee that his department was struggling to negotiate a new enterprise agreement because of confusion surrounding PPL.

“Clearly this is one of the areas where we need consistency across the service,” he said.

"We would look to the APSC for advice on those matters, but with respect to bargaining maternity leave arrangements or parental leave arrangements under our agreement, we are yet to get back to the negotiation table to discuss that."

Neal is reported to have told the committee that his department may have to settle for a “business as usual” approach and postpone bargaining until coherent guidelines were available.

In a statement on Tuesday, a departmental spokeswoman said that the current 14 weeks allowance would continue to be offered to Prime Minister and Cabinet employees.
“The bargaining policy hasn't changed with respect to parental leave,” she said.

“PM&C does not propose to change its position on paid parental leave, and will offer an entitlement to employees consistent with the entitlement in our current enterprise agreement and the Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act.”

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