Unfortunately, thousands of workers in South Australia miss out on long service leave due to casualised employment conditions and their inability to secure permanent or ongoing employment.
This is despite the fact that South Australia has some of the best long service leave provisions in Australiaunder the Long Service Leave Act 1987 (SA) (‘the Act’). The Act currently includes provisions such as the payment of 1.3 weeks for each year of service after 10 years of service and the payout of pro-rata long service leave upon termination of employment after 7 or more years, but these provisions only apply if an employee has continous service with the same or a related employer.
A portable long service leave schemes pays an employee’s long service leave entitlements after a specified period of working in an industry – regardless of the location of their work or their employer. During their employment, each of the employee’s employers pay into the scheme.
While the construction industry in South Australia now has the equivalent of portable long service leave, the Construction Benefits Scheme, the same cannot be said for any other industry – such as contract cleaning and catering. These forgotten workers are employees who often work for long periods of time, often at the same location but for multiple employers.
That said, there are some employees who do receive long service leave after working for multiple employers. The Long Service Leave Act 1987 (SA) (‘the Act’) contains a relatively broad definition of what is continuous service, see section 3(3) of the Act. The extent of section 3(3) can be seen in a recent case run by PLUS member and United Voice Industrial Officer, Paris Dean, the matter of Ellem v Northern Alarm Security Logistics Pty Ltd  SAIRC 18 (‘Ellem’). In Ellem it can be seen that although non-construction industries do not have a portable long service leave scheme, contracting companies can often end up in a position where they are liable for the entitlements at the end of an employee’s employment with multiple companies, either where a company buys out another company or they take on part of the business.
Ellem and the other similar cases raise the problem that unwitting employers are often left with a liability for an employee’s long service leave for the entirety of the employment at a particular site, regardless of how long the particular employee has been engaged with the employer. This often impacts on the individual employee because the employer is often unable or unwilling to pay the amount or indeed the employee is unaware of their entitlement to begin with.
A portable long service leave scheme would resolve this issue. It would ensure that employees who work in insecure employment receive the benefits of long service leave and it also ensures that unwitting employers are not left with a liability for an employee’s long service leave for the entirety of the employment at a particular site.
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