Portable leave scheme flagged for NSW community workers in domestic violence, community housing, homelessness

NSW has flagged plans for workers in community sector roles to receive a portable leave scheme so the workforce, which is mostly in contract-based roles, can access the entitlement.

Up to 250,000 workers in jobs such as domestic and family violence support, community accommodation and homelessness services could benefit from new sector laws unveiled by NSW Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis last Wednesday.

If passed, the bill will see employers receive six weeks of paid leave after seven years in the sector, down from the current 10, with workforce figures showing 25 per cent of employees leave their current role in any given year.

The rules will apply to all employees in the sector, regardless of length of service and regardless of whether they are employed on a fixed-term, part-time or permanent basis.

Like similar arrangements introduced for cleaners in 2011, workers who sign up to the scheme in the first six months will receive a one-off one-year credit, meaning they can work in the industry after six years.

When workers will start recording seniority will be determined once and if the legislation is passed.

Community sector service workers on the minimum wage will also benefit from the 3.75% increase in the National Minimum Wage and Minimum Wage announced last week.

Ms Cotsis said it was time community sector workers, who are mostly women, were given access to this right.

“It is not good enough that some community sector workers have worked for decades without receiving long-term leave due to short-term contracts and changing jobs,” she said.

“These are hard jobs, mostly done by women, and they deserve a break.”

The NSW laws will be modeled after provisions introduced in Queensland following consultation with employers, peak bodies and the Australian Services Union (ASU).

ASU NSW secretary Angus McFarland urged NSW to “catch up” with Queensland, Victoria, the Northern Territory and South Australia, which introduced a similar scheme last December.

“Portable senior leave recognizes the commitment of service workers to the communities of NSW,” he said.

“Community workers change jobs because of factors beyond their control. Changes in community needs and re-prioritization of government funding can result in resources and jobs being diverted to other areas.”

He added that reducing the period employees must work to access holiday entitlement from 10 to seven years recognized the prevalence of burnout in the sector.

“For frontline social service workers, it’s stressful, complex and emotionally draining work,” he said.

“The long working holiday allows people to take holidays, further study or just spend time with their family and we hope this will attract and keep people in the sector.”

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