In February 2023, the Productivity Commission released its Position Paper as part of its ongoing inquiry into whether the National Employment Standards (NES) should be varied to include an extended unpaid carer’s leave entitlement for employees to look after the frail and elderly.

In 2022, the Productivity Commission was commissioned to commence the inquiry by the former Australian Government following a recommendation made by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and set out in its “Final Report: Care Dignity and Respect” (Final Report).

In responding to the Position Paper, Ai Group lodged a submission with the Productivity Commission expressing support for its interim position that “there is not a strong case for amending the NES to allow for an entitlement to 3-12 months of unpaid leave.” In doing so, Ai Group did not support the creation of a new NES entitlement to extend unpaid parental leave on the basis that it would:

  • Fail to address the varying needs of carers to continue with paid employment on flexible work arrangements or through more flexible forms of employment.
  • Not take into account the effects of the new Secure Jobs Better Pay Act’s amendments to the right to request flexible work arrangements, scheduled to commence on 6 June 2023.
  • Create an adverse cost burden on employers in terms of compliance and productivity costs and difficulties sourcing replacement employees with equivalent skills.
  • Be detrimental to the sustainability of the aged care workforce, many of whom are informal carers.
  • Promote reduced earnings for women taking time out of the paid workforce, contributing to the gender pay gap.