A proposed overhaul of parental leave for federal public servants would increase paid leave by four weeks for most departments and agencies, analysis of enterprise agreements shows.
New parental leave entitlements are the cornerstone of a package of 59 common conditions for Australian Public Service agencies, which public servants will now vote on in their enterprise agreements.
The common conditions package would bring 103 APS agencies into line with each other for the first time since the last service-wide bargaining round occurred in 1995.
The Public Service Commission released its final statement of common conditions on Thursday, after the main public sector union announced its members had backed the 11.2 per cent pay deal.
The government last week announced service-wide bargaining had come to a close, and adjusted its pay offer to include a one-off boost, which would mean public servants receive some of their first pay rise sooner than initially planned.
The proposed parental leave reforms are Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher's effective response to a review of the Maternity Leave Act, which found community standards and expectations had "evolved" beyond the legislation, not updated since 1973.
Under service-wide bargaining, agencies' conditions can be lifted up to meet a baseline, but no agencies can go backwards. This means agencies which already offer better conditions than those proposed will not lose them.
The conditions will not come into effect until agencies vote on their individual enterprise agreements.
Analysis by The Canberra Times of the 16 portfolio department's enterprise agreements, plus Services Australia and the Australian Taxation Office, shows which agencies are poised to gain the most.
Parental leave package
The Maternity Leave Act 1973 sets a base level of 12 weeks paid maternity leave for Commonwealth employees - though many agencies offer additional weeks on top of this.
The government has proposed lifting this to 18 weeks of paid leave, an increase of four weeks for all major agencies, bar five.
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts is the only entity, of the 18 analysed, already offering 18 weeks.
A spokesperson for Senator Gallagher in October said this condition would implement a "sector leading standard" in the APS. The NSW and Victorian public service both offer 14 weeks of paid leave for primary caregivers.
"Combined with other conditions, including fair rates of pay, variety of work, and the ability to play a role in delivering policy and services to the Australian community, we will continue to attract and retain high quality employees," the spokesperson said.
The new conditions also mean all primary caregivers will have access to paid leave, not just mothers, and that a qualifying period of service of 12 months will be scrapped.
Paid leave for secondary caregivers would increase to eight weeks in 2024, in a major boost for the majority of departments, many of which currently only offer two weeks.
This would increase incrementally over the life of the enterprise agreement, reaching 11 weeks in 2025, 14 in 2026 and 18 in 2027.
Requests for flexible work arrangements will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with a bias towards approving requests.
Community and Public Sector union national secretary Melissa Donnelly told The Canberra Times in October these would be "industry leading rights" for the APS, which has undergone a rapid transition on flexible work since COVID-19.
Proposed conditions would also enshrine a principle that all roles in the APS can be flexible, which was set out by the Secretaries Board earlier in the year.
"What we have achieved through the bargaining process to date is goes further than the flexible work provisions or policy that was put forward through the Secretaries Board," Ms Donnelly said.
"It provides really clear and enforceable rights for employees to request working from home, it creates a bias towards 'yes', and it limits the reasons why employees can be refused a request.
"And as it's in the enterprise agreement, an employee who feels that their provisions haven't been properly applied, also has appeal rights."
Most agencies already offer strong entitlements for personal/carer's leave, but three will be required to increase the number of paid leave days on offer to staff.
The entitlement generally allows employees to access paid leave for personal illness or injury, to attend appointments, or to carry out caring responsibilities for other people.
A baseline of 18 days for this type of paid leave will positively impact the Australian Taxation Office, Defence and Treasury.
More nuanced changes to this condition are likely to have a greater impact on agencies, with temporary APS staff, classified as non-ongoing staff, to receive 18 days too
The definition of personal leave will also be expanded to specify that it can be used to manage a chronic condition.
APS staff will be able to apply for three days of paid leave for the purpose of attending significant religious or cultural obligations associated with their particular faith or culture.
This will be a gain for all agencies, except the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which already offers this entitlement.
Most agencies already offer some form of leave for cultural or ceremonial purposes to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, but many of these entitlements are unpaid or below a new proposed baseline.
The Public Service Commission wants to ensure each agency offers six days of paid leave over a two year period for this purpose, in addition to an annual paid day of leave for NAIDOC Week activities.
Ms Donnelly said First Nations employment provisions proposed in bargaining had been a big win, including a move to extend the definition of family to recognise kinship for all purposes.
"There's been a range of measures that we've achieved that have been advocated within our union by our NATSIC group, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander group, including around ceremonial leave and NAIDOC leave and recognition of kinship," she said.
"And they're things that the union has been seeking for years and years, across the APS."
Access to breastfeeding facilities
While seven agencies currently offer access to facilities and breaks for breastfeeding, the remaining 11 are set to gain that as a condition.
Staff who are breastfeeding should be given reasonable paid time during work hours to do so, and the agency should also provide access to appropriate facilities, with things like refrigeration, a lock and seating.
If they can't do that, staff should be able to access flexible working arrangements that support their needs, such as working from home, remote working teleworking or varying work hours on an ad hoc or regular basis.
While six agencies already include breaks and facilities in their enterprise agreements, the remainder are set to gain an entirely new condition.