Nationalising long service leave
History of long service leave
The history of long service leave (LSL) is important in understanding
the ideological viewpoints driving debate about its future. The history of LSL has
featured heavily in arguments both for and against the extension of portability
of LSL entitlements to people who do not remain with one employer for enough
time to be eligible for traditional LSL entitlements.
In considering the history of LSL in Australia and whether changes are
necessary, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) noted:
Paid long service leave is unique to Australia and New
Zealand and an informed policy discussion regarding changes to the nature and
structure of long service leave should involve consideration of the historical
origins of long service leave as an employment entitlement.
In Australia, LSL has existed since the 1860s when it was designed to
allow people to return to their home country once a decade. In this respect,
LSL has long been considered a reward to people who demonstrated loyalty by
remaining with their employer for considerable periods of time. It also served
the practical purpose of refreshing the workforce as well as retaining skills
and expertise with a particular employer.
Thus, as noted by the Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) in its
submission, the conception of LSL was intrinsically linked to its original
The fundamental purpose of long service leave is to reward an
employee with a period of rest after a long period of loyal service with one
employer. Consistent with this fundamental purpose, long service leave was
conceived in Victoria in the 1860s to give the workforce of that time the
opportunity to periodically make the long journey back to their home countries.
The extension of LSL beyond the public sector to the private sector
occurred in the 1940s 'via inclusion in private sector awards with entitlements
created through the processes of conciliation and arbitration'.
These entitlements were 'based on continuous service with one employer'.
The key characteristic of LSL as originally designed was therefore that
it was available to certain employees who remained with a single employer for a
significant amount of time.
Beyond this traditional construct, some portability schemes developed in
industries where there existed unique employment arrangements.
In these cases, portability was designed to allow eligible workers continuity
in accruing LSL, despite the fact that they may not have spent the mandated length
of time with a single employer.
Portability is seen as especially important for workers in industries such
as the building and construction industry, whose nature means that workers do
not usually work for a single employer for long periods of time, but who may be
employed over many years on a project basis, or in some other way routine to
In its submission ACCI explains the rationale for portability of LSL:
Portable long service leave schemes ... are generally
understood to have been designed in response to the unique nature of industries
in which employees are typically engaged on a project basis and move from
employer to employer as one project is completed and another starts. However, the
rationale for portable schemes does not exist in industries that lack this
The McKell Institute, an independent public policy institute, produced a
report in June 2013 entitled 'The Case for a National Portable Long Service
Scheme in Australia' (the McKell report).
The McKell report argues for a national portable long service scheme
which would cover all workers. It cites three benefits of providing long
service leave to workers:
to reduce labour turnover;
to provide a reward for long and faithful service; and
to enable employees halfway through their working life to recover
their energies and return to work rewarded, refreshed and reinvigorated.
The McKell report notes the third reason 'is becoming increasingly
important to Australian workers' as they spend a larger proportion of their
lives in employment, and are working to an older age.
The McKell report also suggests that high mobility in the workforce has
resulted in a low proportion of workers being able to access LSL benefits –
'some due to employment choices and others for structural reasons'.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) submitted:
The ANMF believes that long service is a valuable and valued
entitlement. However, since the inception of LSL in the nineteenth century the
circumstances of work and society have changed immeasurably. Work has changed
dramatically (both in its complexity and intensity), work is less secure,
changes of employment (and employer) are more frequent and workers are more
often required to reskill in order to obtain and retain employment.
All of these factors make entitlement and access to long
service leave even more important today...
The Motor Trade Association of South Australia (MTA) states:
While the MTA does not argue in this submission that there
should be a change to the proposed quantum of LSL entitlement, it is worth the
Committee making note of the need to revisit this issue at a further date given
that the original rationale for LSL may no longer be applicable to the modern
workplace relations system.
Thus, changes in labour market mobility in Australia since the inception
of LSL in the 1860s may mean that LSL no longer has the same relevance it once
did and that it should be viewed in a fresh context, consistent with current
workforce realities. This includes recognising the importance of the individual
worker and the way in which individuals participate in the workforce.
The long service leave system
The current LSL system is by all accounts, complex. There are multiple
working parts and the system is non-uniform across jurisdictions and
A starting point for understanding LSL arrangements is the National
Employment Standards (NES) which includes a long service leave standard to
provide an employee leave after a long period of working for the same employer.This
was designed to be a transitional standard, pending the development of a
uniform national long service leave standard.
While the NES sets out minimum employment standards, a worker's terms
and conditions of employment generally come from an award or agreement.
Most entitlements to long service leave come from long service leave
laws in each state or territory. These laws set out:
how long an employee has to be working to get long service leave;
how much long service leave the employee gets.
The Productivity Commission has outlined the relationship between the
NES and various legislation, noting the complexity and unevenness of these
Whereas the NES provisions on other leave entitlements are
quite specific and self-contained — for instance stipulating that all full time
national system workers are entitled to four weeks paid annual leave per year
or up to 12 months unpaid parental leave — the NES provisions on LSL are
neither. They provide only for a 'transitional' Entitlement to LSL for the
workers who would have otherwise been covered by a pre-reform award or enterprise
agreement. Most employees in the national system derive their LSL entitlement
from state and territory legislation...
This complicates the task of determining the specifics of a
worker's entitlement. The employer must first check whether the worker is covered
by an agreement made either prior to January 2010 that remains in effect, or by
an 'award based transitional instrument'. Where an agreement has lapsed, and so
does not cover the worker, and/or where the relevant instrument does not
specify the worker's LSL entitlement, as is commonly the case, the employer
must abide by the relevant state or territory's legislation instead. The
reliance on state and territory legislation has resulted in considerable
variation in LSL arrangements and entitlements across Australia.
The table below sets out the long service leave entitlements for each
state and territory. The committee notes significant differences in qualifying
period and entitlement across jurisdictions.
By way of comparison, in New Zealand LSL 'is not a legal requirement but
may be negotiated between an employer and employee as an additional entitlement
under their employment agreement. How long an employee has to work to qualify
for long service leave will depend on what is agreed between the employee and
Submitters to this inquiry have suggested that Australia's complex and
non-uniform arrangements regularly causes confusion for both workers and
employers, and can also lead to unintended errors in dealing with LSL
entitlements for individuals. This is particularly so for employers which operate
their business across multiple jurisdictions.
Master Builders Australia 'acknowledges that the lack of uniformity, as
a result of inconsistent State and Territory legislation, can pose a challenge
to some employers who operate across the jurisdictions'.
The MTA also notes challenges in its submission:
Currently, the NES maintains the status quo of various
industrial instruments that applied as of 1 January 2010, without any
consistency. It is a transitional arrangement pending the development of a
Determining the appropriate LSL instrument under the NES can
be complex, especially where pre-reform Federal LSL awards are involved. The
applicability of a particular award or other LSL instrument to an employee is
often unclear, confusing and adds to business compliance costs. A more
simplified and easy to apply approach should be a feature of any transitional
arrangement to a new LSL standard under the NES.
The committee notes that criticism and concern about the current
arrangements is widespread across both employee and employer groups. For
example, the AiGroup states:
Australia's long service leave laws are a mess. The
interaction between the long service leave provisions in the NES, State and
Territory laws and enterprise agreements is so complex that employers and
employees find it difficult to navigate and determine entitlements.
In its submission, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
discusses both traditional and portable LSL schemes in terms of overall
complexity of the system:
The transitional position adopted in respect of the NES
reflects the complexities associated with the regulation of LSL throughout
Australia. There are differences in the minimum level of entitlement to LSL
under the different schemes in existence, reflecting the fact that,
historically, LSL entitlements have been contained in State and Territory
legislation, State and Commonwealth industrial awards and Commonwealth
A further layer of complexity is added by the operation of
the portable LSL schemes applying to the building and construction, coal
mining, security and contract cleaner industries. These schemes operate on an
entirely different basis to the traditional statutory LSL schemes, in that they
recognise service with (potentially) multiple employers allowing employees to
accrue an entitlement based on service in an industry or sector.
Jobwatch Employment Rights Legal Centre echoes this sentiment in its
The National Employment Standards contain long service leave
as a minimum standard, however, the Fair Work Act leaves the matter of
determining long service leave up to the states where a Modern Award does not
discuss long service leave. Most Modern Awards do not contain long service
leave, therefore the matter is left up to state legislation meaning that across
different states, different entitlements apply even within the same or
substantially same occupation. Therefore, there is somewhat of an absurdity in
calling an entitlement a National Employment Standard where it is not employed
evenly across the Commonwealth. What this implies is that the long service
leave entitlements as they stand are incomplete, and action is needed to
standardise the system.
The South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) supports a move
to nationally harmonised long service leave (under certain circumstances), in
light of practical difficulties employers can experience in determining
One of SAWIA's larger members recently experienced a number
of challenges determining the correct long service entitlements for interstate
employees despite having advanced and modern payroll software and significant
in-house payroll and IT expertise. Further, medium sized businesses with
interstate employees are more likely to utilise a standard payroll system which
in SAWIA's experience cannot easily manage the required calculations for either
accrual or the payment for taking annual leave, particularly where there has
been a change in employment status.
In SAWIA's experience, even with the highly sophisticated
payroll software, determining long service leave entitlements for each relevant
jurisdiction and payments far too often involves a degree of manual processing
where employees in multiple locations are involved. This is an example of
unnecessary red tape, loss of productivity and costs for businesses of all
The information provided to the committee from a range of representative
groups highlights the significant challenges that can exist for employers
trying to navigate the LSL system as it currently stands, particularly those
employers who operate across more than one jurisdiction. This leads to the
question of whether the LSL standard should be nationalised.
Should the LSL standard be
In light of the inherent complexities with navigating the current LSL
arrangements in Australia, numerous submitters suggested that implementing a
national LSL standard would help ensure consistency between jurisdictions and simplify
the system. In turn, this would reduce the risk of errors in calculating workers'
In its 2015 Workplace Relations Framework inquiry report,
the Productivity Commission noted that several major employer groups and unions
supported moving to a uniform national standard:
Many submitters recognised the benefits of moving to a
uniform national standard. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) argued
that 'the missing element in the comprehensive suite of minimum standards set
out in the [National Employment Standards] is long service leave'. Without
agreeing on the specifics of any entitlement, the Australian Workers' Union,
the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Mines and Metals Association and
the Victorian Government joined the ACTU in endorsing, in principle, a national
This is consistent with the information provided by submitters to this
inquiry who have argued that consistent arrangements should be adopted to
simplify the LSL scheme. Further, some submitters have suggested that
nationalising the system is the natural starting point for LSL reform in
Examining the possible creation of a national LSL scheme,
should come before any consideration of portability and is, we argue, entirely
severable from any consideration of portability.
AMMA strengthened its argument for nationalising the LSL system in
Australia, by pointing out that Australia 'has all but
achieved a national workplace system with the exception of a couple of areas,
one of which is LSL'
and suggests simplifying the system as a priority:
AMMA and its members are of the conviction that a single
national, non-portable, LSL standard is achievable in Australia, and should be
The best minds of the Australian workplace relations policy
community are quite capable of analysing/deconstructing existing variable state
and territory LSL schemes, and coming up with options to transition to a single
national standard which retains its foundation in the accrual of extended
service with a single employer.
The ANMF suggests that a 'nationally consistent LSL scheme could
potentially streamline current arrangements for both employers and employees,
particularly those operating in various state and federal jurisdictions'.
Similarly, the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) argues that '[a]doption of a
national long service leave standard should be a priority, to reduce complexity
and compliance costs'.
A number of submitters note that this issue is not new, referring to
previous discussion about reforming LSL. For example. the Recruitment and
Consulting Services Association of Australia and New Zealand (RCSA):
RCSA support the harmonisation of regular long service leave
entitlements within Australia, as proposed during the establishment of the
National Employment Standard under the Fair Work Act 2009.
The maintenance of a state based system of long service leave
results in unnecessary confusion and administrative cost for employers that
employ employees across state borders.
Similarly, the NSW Farmers Federation discussed the complexity of
current arrangements and noted that a review of the Fair Work legislation in
2012 recommended a national standard for LSL be established.
NSW Farmers fully supports the creation of a national
standard for LSL to ensure consistency across the states and to help reduce
complexities for employers operating in more than one state or territory. There
are national minimum standards relating to other types of leave (e.g. annual
leave and personal/carer's leave), so a national standard should also apply to
LSL, especially given that there are similar themes that can be found across
The Health Workers Union – Victoria (HWU), added:
Australia has multiple legislative frameworks relating to
long service leave operating across its states and territories. This makes the
existing long service leave provisions in Australia highly complex and
Notwithstanding, National standards would provide greater
flexibility for employment across different states and territories and reduce
the administrative burden for employers who operate across more than one
The evidence strongly suggests that there is broad support for a nationalised
LSL standard, in light of the non-uniform and complex arrangements currently in
place. The key rationale for a nationalised system would be to simplify the
current arrangements and ensure that both employers and workers are better able
to understand and apply LSL entitlements, regardless of jurisdiction.
Nationalisation would be especially helpful to those employers who engage
workers across multiple jurisdictions.
It would appear a logical starting point of any reform of LSL in
Australia to consider standardising arrangements across all jurisdictions.
Successful simplification of standard LSL arrangements would be likely to make
the administration of portable LSL easier to deal with.
Challenges of achieving a national
Evidence received by the committee suggests almost universal acceptance that
current LSL arrangements are unduly complex and that strong support exists for
a national approach to be adopted.
The Department of Employment (the department) submitted that a 'national
long service leave standard has been considered by governments for some time'
and during a 2012 Fair Work Act Review, development of a national standard had
broad support with stakeholders expressing a preference to simplify the LSL
However, a number of submitters, including the department, point out
that achieving a nationalised standard will not be easy at a practical level
because of a range of significant challenges, including the
multi-jurisdictional nature of the current LSL arrangements, cost to employers
and potential loss of entitlements by some workers:
The key challenge in establishing a national long service
leave standard is that state and territory governments maintain primary
responsibility for long service leave entitlements. In order to achieve a
national standard, the state and territory governments will need to reach
consensus on the provisions, such as the quantum of leave and qualifying
periods. This will be difficult, considering the differences in the
entitlements between jurisdictions. Achieving a uniform standard based on an
average of the current range of entitlements could, for example, result in some
employers having higher costs and some employees receiving lower entitlements
than under their current arrangements.
The department set out other potential challenges that would need to be
considered in nationalising a LSL standard:
state and territory laws also include a range of entitlements
relating to termination of employment and other matters, such as cashing out of
a number of possible legislative approaches to developing a
national standard, including establishment in Commonwealth legislation or
harmonisation through the state and territory systems. Given national system
requirements, the state and territory governments would need to be consulted
and agree to implement a national standard;
any approach would require appropriate transitional arrangements
for employees entitled to long service leave under state and territory
legislation or the NES. These may raise constitutional issues, such as
obligations in relation to acquisition of property and state based differences;
transitional arrangements are likely to be administratively
complex, as they would require employers and employees to comply with multiple
legislative instruments during the transition period. The transition period
would also be prolonged, as long service leave entitlements crystallise and
then can be taken over a period of many years; and
depending on the approach, the development of a national standard
may continue to require both Commonwealth and state enforcement agencies, as
with the current arrangements.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) notes the complexity
of the process has probably led to a delay in dealing with the issue of nationalisation
of LSL, however, it suggests this delay can be positive, in that it will allow
more time to properly consider all of the issues:
As is well-known, there are current national minimum
standards for a range of leave entitlements under the National Employment
Standards (NES). The absence of such a protection for LSL is regrettable. The
lack of activity in developing a standard from 2010 to the present date has
delayed what all interested parties believe will be a complex process requiring
It is possible, however, that the delay in developing a
uniform national LSL standard will enable greater consideration of the need for
more equitable thresholds to LSL entitlements and considered treatment of the
question of how to ensure Australia's highly mobile workforce are able to
access LSL when working for a single employer over an extended period is
Master Builders Australia has shared feedback from its members about the
current LSL arrangements:
Feedback from our members has suggested the current
administrative models, across the jurisdictions, work well and are not
considered overly burdensome in their current form.
The key challenge remains, however, to take exiting State
based construction industry LSL schemes, some of which function very well, to a
national level, without forfeiting the benefits which have already accumulated
under existing autonomous State based schemes.
The HWU has set out the challenges it sees in standardising LSL
The impact of varying state and territory long service leave
arrangements on a NPLSL scheme administered by the Commonwealth will prove to
be a particularly difficult matter to resolve. There [are] a number of
considerations that must be carefully thought through and negotiated between
the states and the commonwealth.
From a practical point of view, are we going to establish a
uniform legislation or will we be asking the states to refer their powers to
This issue may prove difficult to resolve given that Western
Australia have not referred their workplace relations powers (in relation to
constitutional corporations) to the Commonwealth. All the other states have
done this. All the states will need to refer their long service leave laws to
the Commonwealth if we are to have any chance of creating uniform legislation.
The Health Services Union (HSU) clearly articulated the view that the
Commonwealth must overcome constitutional difficulties with legislating for LSL
by working with states and territories to come to an agreement about a national
While the remainder of this submission focuses on the
elements of our preferred PLSL scheme, it is worth dwelling briefly on the
overdue need for a uniform long service leave standard within the NES. Indeed,
a uniform LSL standard remains a key piece of unfinished business leftover from
the introduction of the Fair Work Bill 2008.
At present, there are three ways an employee's LSL
entitlement is determined:
- State and Territory LSL Laws
- A Federal Pre-Modern Award (which would have covered an
employer and their employees before 1 January 2010)
- A registered agreement
We recognize that the Commonwealth's power to legislate in
this arena is constitutionally questionable. As such, we recommend that the Commonwealth
stay fast to the commitments made during the introduction of Fair Work Bill and
work with state and territory governments to develop a uniform minimum LSL
No worker should be worse off
In spite of widespread support for nationalisation of LSL standards, some
submitters expressed a view that consistency should not come at the cost of any
worker being worse off under new arrangements, for example, because changes
result in an increase in qualifying period or decrease in leave period.
The Productivity Commission discussed the glacial rate of progress in
developing a national standard since the 2012 review, indicating that a
national standard will involve compromise that may not suit all stakeholders:
However, there has not been significant progress towards a
national standard since the review, largely because the adoption of a standard
will entail losers as well as winners. Businesses operating mainly in one state
would not want to emulate higher cost arrangements in another, while employees
(and their representatives) in a state with more generous entitlements would
not want to relinquish these to achieve uniformity.
In considering how to mitigate the risk of negative effects on some
workers, the ACTU suggests that a 'highest common denominator' approach should
be adopted to ensure that no worker is worse off under any new scheme, arguing:
It is imperative that any generalised national LSL scheme
should not be introduced to the detriment of workers who already have the
benefit of a superior LSL scheme; it must not disentitle classes of employees
already entitled to something better. Such an outcome would be perverse and
contrary to the goal of generalising an inherently beneficial scheme.
The ACTU explained further at the committee hearing on Friday, 5
February 2016 in Canberra:
We say that, in a developed country like Australia, workers'
conditions ought to progressively move forwards, not backwards. Any national
long service leave standard ought not to displace any superior entitlements in
existing state and territory schemes. Our preferred option is that a national
standard be developed that incorporates the highest common denominator
approach, drawing on the South Australian and Northern Territory schemes
regarding the core entitlements and elements of other state and territory
schemes regarding elements such as the level of pro rata access.
United Voice articulated its support for the ACTU's argument:
The ACTU also notes that any generalised national scheme
should not be introduced to the detriment of workers who already have access to
a superior long service leave scheme. United Voice supports that
The ANMF noted the Productivity Commission draft report which suggested that
'any change would produce winners and losers,' and stated:
The ANMF submits that a national NES based LSL standard must,
as a minimum, maintain existing LSL entitlements for current and future
employees and, as a consequence this effectively means a national standard must
adopt the 'highest common denominator' in respect to the existing statutory
schemes. To do otherwise will result in a reduction for some existing and/or
The MEAA also adopted this view:
MEAA supports the development and implementation of a
(long-awaited) National Long Service Leave standard that also provides for
portability of 'Accrued Employment Leave' on an industry-by-industry or
generalised basis. This would require a condition that where the Standard is
less beneficial than a current employee is entitled to, the standard will not
Similarly, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) stated:
No worker should be worse off, or have a reduced entitlement
for Long Service Leave under any new arrangements. It is vital that workers who
have accrued an entitlement under the current arrangements are able to maintain
The HSU stated:
With regard to what a final standard might look like, the HSU
recommends a 'highest common denominator' approach, whereby the most generous
elements of current state and territory statutory LSL schemes are amalgamated
into a new minimum national standard. This approach would ensure that workers
currently living in jurisdictions with more generous LSL provisions would not
be left worse-off.
One of the ways in which a national LSL standard could be achieved
without negatively affecting any current employees, would be to grandfather
existing entitlements. This would mean that any new national standard would
apply only to new workers. The Productivity Commission explained:
One option, which may bring any proposal for a nationally
uniform LSL entitlement closer to consensus, would be to agree to 'grandfather'
existing entitlements. Grandfathering would mean that the new national
standard, once agreed, would apply only to new hires, not to existing
jobs. This would remove the prospect of current workers losing their present
entitlements, and of course employers having to countenance sudden increases in
what they might owe to their workforce. The proportion of workers initially covered
by the new national standard would be low. However, it would expand over time,
as some workers move to new jobs and as new workers enter the labour force and
While grandfathering may provide an elegant solution for achieving
consistency across jurisdictions, it is not palatable to all stakeholders. For
example, the QNU noted the PC's report and added:
This would mean that once the states agree to a new national
standard, these arrangements would only apply to new employees, not to existing
employees. The current workforce would not lose its entitlements, but new
employees would attract the new national standard. While we welcome further
discussions around LSL with other state and territory governments, we reiterate
we would not accept any reduction in entitlements for existing or new
The ANMF also indicated that it 'would only be supportive of a national
LSL standard subject to the following conditions':
- The ANMF would not support any harmonisation arrangements
that would see a decrease in current entitlements for current or future
- The ANMF would not support 'grandfathering' existing
entitlements for current employees.
While there is clearly an appetite amongst stakeholders for
nationalisation of LSL, it is unlikely to be supported by employee groups if it
resulted in workers being worse off because their entitlements are less
beneficial under a new system. This is irrespective of whether other workers
gain in a nationalised system.
Cost to employers
Some submitters indicated that they would not support nationalisation of
the LSL standard if it resulted in increased costs for employers.
Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI) is an 'independent, community
based systems and individual advocacy organisation and a community legal
service for people with disability'.
QAI articulated its support for a nationalised LSL scheme, but raised concerns
about costs to employers, pointing out that some employers in the social and
community service sector already operate on slim or no profit margins:
While we support the validity and importance of both a
national long service leave standard and the portability of long service leave
entitlements, we consider that issues concerning who pays for these
entitlements are issues of vital significance that must be addressed. The
resolution of these issues is important for employers within the social and
community service sector, many of whom operate on slim or no profit margins. It
is particularly important for people with a disability, so that it does not
become a further stumbling block to the ability to employ skilled workers.
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) indicated that it supports
ACCI's submission and notes that many of its members are small, locally owned
businesses serving their surrounding communities. Further, that 'AHA members
operate highly labour-intensive businesses and as such are significantly
impacted by cost increases relating to employment'. 
In its submission, the Motor Trade Association (MTA) emphasised the
importance of small businesses to employment in Australia and the relative
effects that sudden and significant changes in cost can have to those
businesses. The MTA expressed a preference 'for a national system that
emphasizes consistency, transparency and minimises the cost to small and medium
sized businesses, particularly in the automotive trades'.
The MTA further suggested that '[m]ajor workplace entitlement changes
must be thoughtfully managed to ensure the ongoing health of the small business
sector is front of mind throughout the transition process'.
These submissions raise an important point - any additional operational
costs for employers can have a disproportionate impact on small businesses.
However, concerns about cost to business was not limited to small or
medium enterprises, but applied more broadly. For example, ACCI stated that it
would 'be unable to support the establishment of a national long service leave
standard that would impose additional costs on businesses which would be in no
better position as a result'.
ACCI further suggested the transitional costs to an employer of moving
to a nationalised LSL standard should be considered, and questioned whether
these costs are justifiable, given that 'the overwhelming majority of employers
only operate in one jurisdiction'.
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) outlined how the building and
construction industry is unique in terms of both its employment structure and
LSL scheme. In discussing a national LSL standard, the HIA provides a
non-exhaustive list of issues that would need to be considered, and indicates
HIA is broadly supportive of measures to simplify and
streamline long service leave arrangements. A national approach to long service
leave should however be focussed on removing unnecessary regulation, reduce red
tape and the administrative burden on business.
HIA does not support a nationally consistent long service
standard being achieved at any cost, particularly if merely leads to the
highest common dominator [sic] being adopted as the new minimum entitlement.
The evidence received suggests that the potential costs to employers of
nationalising the LSL system – particularly small businesses - could have a
significant impact that could have a flow-on effect on workers. Thus, any new
system should be balanced so that it does not disproportionately affect
While the committee noted that amongst submitters there is generally
strong support for a nationalised LSL scheme, it also noted that a number of submitters
do not support nationalisation. The lack of support is based on a perceived
lack of need because the current system working as it should, and also because
nationalising LSL would increase costs and be unduly complicated to achieve.
For example, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) stated
in its submission:
The MTAs are not aware of any collective support between
State and Territory Governments towards a single national long service leave
scheme. Movement towards a unified model would inevitably lead to the question
of which model should be applied. The MTAs (and likely other employer organisations)
consider the South Australian model, for example, as uncompetitive and too
generous to employees at industry's expense. On the other hand, unions are
likely to support a model similar to South Australia and oppose more balanced
The MTAs are highly sceptical of attempts to further
nationalise employee entitlements after the Modern Awards experience. Despite
promises at the time that employers would be no worse off under a federal
Modern Award, the reality has seen the introduction of significant new employee
entitlements in the automotive industry without any move towards compensation
through productivity increases. For example, a recent decision by Justice
Buchanan in the Federal Court of Australia interpreted the National Employment Standards
to override provisions relating to annual leave loading on termination that
have existed in the Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award
2010 (VMRSR Award) and its predecessors since the early 1970s.
Based on the actuarial data it supplied in its submission, the Australian
Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) states:
ARTIO submits that the current state legislative regimes are
working precisely as intended, in that around 40% or just over 4 million
workers can expect to take long service leave at some time during their working
Finally, the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries (AFEI)
The process of amalgamation of existing employment
provisions, either through the ever ongoing making of modern awards or via
legislation (including work health safety legislation) has resulted in a 'cherry
picking' approach and a highest common denominator outcome in Australian
workplace regulation. This outcome would be replicated in the formulation of
any national long service leave standard. This unwarranted cost impost on
employers is unacceptable. Formulating a national long service leave standard is
a high risk process, even if undertaken to 'harmonise' the provisions of
different jurisdictions, and can only produce an outcome that is detrimental to
While not explored in this report, the committee notes that a number of
submitters have suggested preferred national LSL standards. For example, ACTU
has suggested a standard of 13 weeks' leave after 10 years;
AiGroup suggests the 'national standard should reflect the previous federal
award long service leave standard, i.e. 13 weeks long service after 15 years of
service, with pro-rata entitlements after 10 years;'
the NFF suggests the standard should reflect 'the most common entitlement of
one month's leave for each five years of service, with a qualifying period of 7
The committee notes these suggestions, but makes no findings in relation
to a preferred national standard.
The committee notes the complexity of the current LSL arrangements and accepts
that inconsistencies across jurisdictions have the potential to cause confusion
and lead to unintentional errors in calculating LSL entitlements. The committee
is of the view that a nationally consistent LSL standard would help alleviate
However, the committee also acknowledges that nationalising the LSL
standard is not a simple matter, and that states, territories and the
commonwealth would need to work together to reach an agreement that should not
impose a prohibitive cost burden on employers or result in any workers being
worse off under a new scheme.
The committee is persuaded that grandfathering is a sensible solution
that should be explored in developing a nationalised LSL standard, because all
new workers (nationally) would start out on the same footing. Over time, the
differences between old and new workers would diminish as people leave the
workforce. This would be an equitable approach that would see no worker worse
off, and many likely to be better off in the future.
The committee is of the view that any changes to LSL arrangements should
be carefully considered and managed in a thoughtful way designed to minimise
negative effects on business, being particularly mindful of the vulnerability
of the small business sector.
The committee recommends that the states, territories and commonwealth
undertake a review of the current LSL system in Australia, and considers
developing a nationally consistent scheme. Development of a nationally
consistent scheme should involve extensive consultation of both employer and employee
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