Paid parental leave scheme
Women in the boardroom
Paid parental leave scheme
has recently introduced its first national government funded paid parental leave
scheme. Under the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 (Cth),
eligible primary caregivers will be entitled to up to 18 weeks of parental
leave pay if they have or adopt a child on or after 1 January 2011. Primary carers who satisfy work, income
and residency tests will be eligible to receive parental leave pay at the
national minimum wage, which is currently $570 per week.
be eligible, a primary carer must:
be living in Australia and an
Australian citizen or resident
not earn more than $150,000 per year (
and subject to indexation)
have worked at least 10 out of the
previous 13 months (Work Period).
work test requires a primary carer to work 330 hours over the Work Period,
which is just over one day per week, with no more than an eight
week gap between two consecutive working days. This work may be performed for more than
one employer and a primary carer may be employed on a full time, part time or
casual basis, as a contractor or self-employed.
to 18 weeks of parental leave pay may be taken before the child’s first
birthday or 12 months from the date of placement in the case of adoption. This must be taken in one continuous
period, although parents are able to nominate the period over which they wish
to receive it. If a primary carer
elects to return to work before the end of the 18 week paid parental leave
period, the unused portion may be transferrable to the other parent or, in
exceptional circumstances, transferred to another carer, if they meet the
the paid parental leave scheme is fully government funded, currently it will be
administered by employers through their own payroll systems, although there is
legislation before the Australian Parliament to amend the scheme so that
employers are not required to administer the payment of the paid parental leave. As the legislation currently stands, from
1 January 2011, employers can opt to administer parental leave payments,
however, from 1 July 2011 this will become mandatory in respect of
employees who have completed at least 12 months continuous service who are
taking at least eight weeks parental leave. Other eligible carers will receive their
parental leave pay through the Family Assistance Office. Employers’ obligations have been phased
in to ensure that new processes do not need to be implemented halfway through
the financial year.
scheme is designed to complement parents’ entitlement to up to 24 months of unpaid
parental leave under the National Employment Standards contained in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The government parental leave pay can be
received before, after or at the same time as other paid employer provided
leave, such as annual leave or maternity leave. Accrual of additional leave entitlements
is dependent on what other types of leave an employee takes. For example, if an employee is taking
long service leave whilst receiving paid parental leave, accrual rules relating
to long service leave will apply.
scheme does not replace existing entitlements and cannot be used to offset
existing paid parental leave obligations.
Entitlements to parental leave available through employer
funded schemes in an industrial instrument cannot be withdrawn for the
life of the agreement. However, the
Scheme is not intended to prevent discretionary non-binding company policies
from being varied.
Australian Parliament currently considering the Sex and Age Discrimination Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 (Cth) (Bill) which, if passed by Parliament,
will establish breastfeeding as a separate and distinct ground of
discrimination. This amendment is
being proposed alongside other reforms in the Bill to eliminate discrimination
and promote gender equality, including extending existing protections from
discrimination on the ground of family responsibilities to both men and women
in all areas of work, ensuring that protections from sex discrimination apply
equally to men and women, and providing greater protection from sexual
harassment for students and workers.
amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act
1984 (Cth) establishing breastfeeding as a separate ground of
discrimination is designed to ensure that special measures can be taken to
accommodate the needs of breastfeeding women, both in the workplace and in
other areas of public life. The
addition of breastfeeding to other prohibited grounds such as martial status,
pregnancy and potential pregnancy emphasises that breastfeeding is a protected
across Australia have taken proactive measures to support women breastfeeding in
the workplace. The New South Wales
and Queensland public service have already introduced policies entitling
employees to lactation breaks and breastfeeding facilities. Lactating mothers who are employed on a
full time or part time basis are entitled to breaks totalling up to
60 minutes each day. These
breaks can be used to breastfeed a child, express milk, or for any other
related activities. Government
departments are also required to provide suitable, private breastfeeding
facilities with appropriate equipment, such as a refrigerator, sink and
move towards providing employees with breastfeeding facilities is also evident
in the private sector with employers, such as ANZ Bank, providing such
facilities to assist women returning to the workforce after giving birth to a
Bill has been passed by the lower house of the Australian Parliament, and is
currently being considered by a committee associated with the upper house of
the Australian Parliament, before being considered by the upper house of the
Australian Parliament in early 2011.
Women in the boardroom
recent report, Australian Census of Women
in Leadership 2010, conducted by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the
Workplace Agency has revealed that women remain vastly unrepresented in senior
positions in the Australian Stock Exchange’s (ASX) top 200 listed companies. Of these 200 companies only 2.5% have
women as Chair and 3.0% have female Chief Executive Officers. While men make up 91.6% of the Board of
Directors, women only represent 8.4% of the Board of Directors, despite the
fact that women are present in almost equal numbers to men in the workplace as
recent years there has been a push by organisations such as Women on Boards to
increase the gender balance on Australian boards.
June 2010, the ASX Corporate Governance Council introduced some important
changes to its Corporate Governance
Principles & Recommendations in an attempt to increase gender diversity
in organisations and on boards.
financial years commencing on or after 1 January 2011, ASX-listed companies are
establish a diversity policy
disclose the policy or a summary
of that policy
disclose diversity objectives and
progress in their annual report.
diversity policy should include requirements for the board to set measurable
objectives for achieving gender diversity and review both the objectives and
the progress in achieving them annually.
The annual report should disclose:
measurable gender diversity objectives set
towards achieving them
proportion of women at three levels, board, senior
management and the whole of organisation.
The ASX is hopeful that these
requirements will create a culture of diversity within Australian companies.
Over the past year, a number of female
focused initiatives have been implemented in workplaces across Australia. The introduction of the government funded
paid parental leave and the proposed stronger sex discrimination protections are
designed to increase gender balance and the participation of women in the
workplace. These initiatives
together with mandatory reporting from ASX-listed companies form part of a long term strategy to increase the representation of women
at senior and executive levels in Australian workplaces.