SA elections: Labor promises portable long service leave for community workers

In the lead up to the South Australian election, Premier Jay Weatherill announced on March 5 that an incoming Labor government would introduce portable long service leave for community services workers.

Australian Services Union (ASU) members in all states have been campaigning for long service leave portability for many years. So far only Victoria and the ACT have been successful. Portability of entitlements will bring stability to the sector. Community Services is a growing industry in which recruitment and retention of qualified staff is an issue.

Community services includes workers in services such as youth and family services; homelessness services, including youth refuges and women’s refuges; domestic violence support services; disability services; community mental health services; community legal centres; employment services; Aboriginal services; community or neighbourhood centres; home and community care services; child protection; migrant and settlement services; aid agencies; environmental and advocacy organisations.

Because funding for community services is generally short term (2–5 years) people move between organisations, relinquishing long service leave entitlements they may have accrued. Most workers are never able to access long service leave. The portability scheme would echo local government and the construction industry, where a workers’ long service leave (and other leave entitlements) move with them from job to job in the sector.

The Long Service Leave Scheme would operate externally of any individual employer and employing organisations would pay a levy to cover the cost.

ASU state secretary Joseph Scales welcomed the commitment, which he said would be “life changing” for workers in the community sector.

“Community services workers support the most vulnerable people in our state … the nature of contract-based funding in their sector means that they can work for decades without ever accruing a single day of Long Service Leave,” he said.

“ASU members tell us that they are burnt out, cannot always meet family pressures, and are often forced to leave the sector altogether because they cannot access long service leave.

“Portable long service leave will enable quality, skilled workers to remain in the community services sector so as to continue to provide the best support for those in need of it.

“The vast majority of community services workers are women. As a ‘feminised industry’ these workers have not enjoyed the same workplace entitlements as the rest of the Australian workforce. Today’s announcement goes a long way to remedying this gender gap.”  

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