Paid parental leave for tens of thousands of federal public servants has been plunged into limbo by the Abbott government's controversial cuts to the entitlement.
Departments say they cannot finalise the arrangements for their workforces until they have been given clear guidance from public service authorities.
One elite department has told the Parliament that the whole question of PPL entitlements might have to be put on hold until a clear policy for the public service emerges.
The key Department of the Prime and Cabinet says it simply does not know what to do about its workforce's paid parental leave entitlements in the wake of the bombshell announcement in May's budget.
Until there is an agreed position across the public service, which was singled out and accused of "double-dipping" in an attempt to sell the policy, everything is up in the air.
Female public servants found themselves in the government's sights as it announced its $1 billion cut to PPL entitlements in May with claims that mothers were "double-dipping" by using their employer-provided leave as well as the government-funded scheme.
But more than a month on from the announcement, confusion reigns across the 160,000-strong federal public service about what parents working there will be entitled to after July 1, 2016, when the government's controversial new policy is set to kick in.
One of the potential consequences raised in the wake of the policy announcement was that workers would simply trade away their employer-provided leave entitlements for more money or other concessions and then rely more heavily on the government's minimum wage scheme.
Public servants at Prime Minister and Cabinet are entitled to 14 weeks paid parental leave and, like private sector workers whose employers offer PPL entitlements, can also access the government's scheme which offers 18 weeks pay at the minimum wage to the primary carer.
The Abbott government's APS bargaining guidelines instructs departments to bargain with regard to generous PPL policy the Coalition took to the 2013 election but have not been updated to reflect the dumping of the policy.
Senior Prime Minister and Cabinet manager Ben Neal has told a Parliamentary committee that it was proving difficult to negotiate the PPL sections of his department's new enterprise agreement because of the policy confusion surrounding the entitlement.
"Clearly this is one of the areas where we need consistency across the service," Mr Neal 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."
In the end Mr Neal told the committee the department might just have to take a business-as-usual approach in a new workplace deal and then make changes when some cross-service policy guidance was available.
In a statement on Tuesday, a departmental spokeswoman indicated that the current 14 weeks entitlement would be offered to Prime Minister and Cabinet employees.
"The bargaining policy hasn't changed with respect to parental leave," the spokeswoman confirmed.
"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 1973."
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that public service agencies have been instructed to bargain with regard to the availability of the minimum wage scheme. That was the position in the previous bargaining guidelines published in 2011. The government's latest bargaining guidelines instruct agencies to bargain with regard to the Coalition's now defunct paid parental leave policy.
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