Is long service leave out of reach for Gen Y?
28th May 2017
Long service leave is a unique quirk of Australian labour law that stretches back to the colonial past, allowing workers a few months of paid leave after a decade with one employer.
But with young people facing headwinds of underemployment, automation and the desire to move around, is long service leave falling out of reach?
Simone Georg, 29, said lasting employment could be elusive.
“We’re spending so much time just bouncing between jobs and not really understanding where we can actually go for a full-time job, where we can go and reach permanency,” she said.
But it is not just young Australians moving around — Australia’s workers in general are increasingly unlikely to stay put.
Social research firm McCrindle found the average Australian takes up 17 jobs in their working lifetime, spanning across five careers.
Alina Awanghabuan, 26, said those figures would seem about right in her circle of friends.
“If you stay too long in one job then you don’t grow, so you basically have to keep moving on to other jobs,” she said.
Young people ‘forced out’ of ongoing jobs
Katie Acheson, who leads NSW’s peak body for young people, Youth Action, said things have changed dramatically for those entering the workforce today.
“The whole job-for-life idea is pretty much a thing of the past,” she said.
“Young people are forced into spaces where they are taking what they can get.
“They get their foot in the door wherever they can and as a result what we don’t see is young people getting into secure work for quite a long time.”
She advocated a re-think of long service leave, allowing people to continue accruing the entitlement if they stay within a particular industry.
“Then we keep those skills in that industry … if we can keep young people in a particular sector, then we can keep those skills there for longer,” Ms Acheson said.
Long service leave uniquely Australian
Australia is the only country in the world that mandates long service leave.
According to Australian National University Professor John Wanna, it was originally created for colonial administrators in the 19th century.
“It was designed to allow them to sail back to the United Kingdom, have three or four weeks in the UK and sail back to South Australia or Victoria,” he said.
By the 1950s the entitlement had entered the private sector as a way to reward loyalty and entice workers to stay for the long-haul.
“It was seen by employers as a positive because it would hold in good workers for them, it would help them retain their workforce and they wouldn’t be competing,” Professor Wanna said.
He said allowing people to move their entitlement across jobs could be a sensible change in the face of growing casualisation.
“They’re going to get better workers … if you’ve been in that industry and developed your skills … employers are more likely to see you as a reliable worker,” he said.