Page 1944 - Week 06 - Friday, 6 May 2005

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more than one part-time job just to make ends meet. For them, long service leave is still a faint hope. I think that the next step is to look at innovative ways of addressing the fact that an increasing number of workers are on short-term contracts with various employers and therefore will not ever become eligible for long service leave. Portability within a sector is one way of achieving this. So I am pleased that the community sector task force will look at the portability of long service leave within the community sector.

The debate on this bill has shown a disturbing lack of concern by some speakers for the welfare of workers compared to the welfare of business. Indeed, any gain that makes work healthy for people has been seen by them as an indication that the sky is falling in. Nonetheless, business owners, business managers, as well as business workers, are human beings. I am sure that it is just as important that managers and owners take decent breaks every five years, but we are not here debating that, because we do not have to, because they make the rules for themselves. I support the bill.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (9.56), in reply: I thank members for their contribution to the debate on this bill. This bill delivers on a commitment by the government to modernise long service leave entitlements for ACT private sector workers to better reflect the realities of the contemporary 21st century workplace.

The last two decades have seen a major shift in the way people work, as the notion of a job for life fades and more precarious forms of employment, such as casual and contract work, proliferate. These changes in work patterns, combined with emerging issues such as increased work intensification, pressures to balance work and family life and predicted labour shortages, are the drivers for the amendments the government is moving today.

Over time, a number of rationales have underpinned the provision of long service leave, including to provide employees with an extended leave of absence in order to renew their energies, to reward long and faithful service with an employer, and to reduce labour turnover. These rationales remain at the heart of the amendments proposed by the government.

The main policy reforms to be made by this bill will enable workers to begin to take their long service leave after completing seven years of service with an employer. This amendment will set a new legislative standard for access to long service leave in Australia and will bring entitlements for private sector workers covered by the act into line with the benefits already enjoyed by ACT public sector workers. The amendments will provide employees with improved access to long service leave to better balance work and family commitments, while recognising the value of rewarding long service with an employer.

After the introduction of the bill, the government received feedback from stakeholders seeking illumination on the intended operation of the improved access provisions. The purpose of the government’s first amendment to this bill is to provide certainty to stakeholders on the operation of the bill and make clear that employees will be able to access long service leave after seven years, in much the same way as they can access it after 10 years of service.

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