Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 November 2021) . . Page.. 3614 ..
I want to thank the offices of Minister Gentleman and Mr Braddock for their willingness to work with our office to make sure that we can get the best outcome for Canberra families who experience a miscarriage. As Donna said to the press today, “We need to learn to talk about this more and we need to learn to support women better. When someone has lost a child, let us not ignore it; let us talk about it. And let us appropriately support these families.” I commend the motion to the Assembly.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (3.11): I thank Mrs Jones for bringing forward this motion in Ms Lee’s absence and for the collaborative way in which these changes have been negotiated between Minister Gentleman’s office, Mrs Jones and Mr Braddock. The government absolutely acknowledges the intent of Ms Lee’s motion and recognises the devastating impact the loss of a child, through miscarriage or stillbirth, can have on individuals and families who are affected by it.
When government employees experience pregnancy loss, they absolutely should be supported by appropriate leave provisions. And it is exactly because we support the intent of Ms Lee’s motion that existing leave entitlements for employees who experience pregnancy loss are being further clarified through the current round of bargaining for the ACT public sector enterprise agreements.
Through the current enterprise bargaining process, there has been a thorough review of parental leave provisions for employees who experience, or whose partner experiences, a miscarriage or the loss of a baby through stillbirth. Working groups were established to examine the current provisions compared with those in other jurisdictions and consider the contemporary values and expectations of the wider community.
Existing provisions within ACT public sector enterprise agreements do provide a range of leave options for employees who experience miscarriage, which is defined for this purpose as pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation. There is a separate range of provisions available for parents who experience stillbirth or pregnancy loss after 20 weeks gestation.
In August this year, as the motion notes, the federal parliament passed amendments to the Fair Work Act which provide two days of paid compassionate leave to parents who experience a miscarriage. The proposed new enterprise agreements for the ACT public sector go beyond that, clarifying that five days of paid compassionate leave can be accessed where an employee experiences miscarriage. This is making explicit something that may have been enabled under the compassionate leave provisions but was not explicit previously and was, therefore, at the discretion of delegates and managers. Employees whose domestic partner experiences a miscarriage can also access this leave entitlement.
If an employee does not meet the eligibility criteria for paid leave, they will still be able to access unpaid compassionate leave. The clarified provisions under the