Labor will introduce legislation guaranteeing parents of stillborn babies access to paid parental leave in the private sector.
Labor Senator Kristina Keneally will introduce a private senator’s bill, the Fair Work Amendment (Improving Paid Parental Leave for Parents of Stillborn Babies).
The Commonwealth’s Parental Leave Pay already provides parents of a stillborn baby the same leave entitlements as parents of a baby born live.
However, in the private sector, without explicit entitlements for employees who have experienced a stillbirth, often it is a manager or direct supervisor making the significant decision as to whether parents of a stillborn baby can access paid parental leave.
In 2018 the Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education heard evidence about the difficulties and inconsistencies experienced by employees in the private sector when seeking access to paid parental leave after stillbirth.
In one case, a mother gave evidence to the Committee that she was forced to return to work by her manager just 11 days after her baby’s stillbirth.
A report by Price Waterhouse Coopers found that mothers who returned to work for financial reasons following a stillbirth had a productivity rate of just 26% of their normal rate after 30 days.
The Committee also heard evidence that the ambiguity existing in company parental leave policies was most likely through oversight or misunderstanding of stillbirth, rather than ill-intent.
The first recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth’s bi-partisan report was to amend the Fair Work Act “to ensure that legislative entitlements to paid parental leave are unambiguous in recognising and providing support for employees who have experienced stillbirth.”
The Government agreed to this recommendation. However, in 2020 the Government amended the Fair Work Act to extend unpaid parental leave to parents of stillborn babies, but did not include paid leave.
Senator Keneally’s Bill will fully implement the Committee’s bi-partisan recommendation and equalise paid parental leave entitlements for all parents.
- Stillbirth in Australia is defined as the death before birth of a baby of 20 weeks’ gestation or weighing a minimum of 400g.
- In Australia 6 babies a day are stillborn, or approximately 2,200 babies a year. The rate of death from stillbirth in Australia is higher than the national road toll.
- A study prepared by PwC in 2016 estimated that stillbirth would cost the Australian economy $681million in the period 2016-2020. Presenteeism and absenteeism at work account for over 40% of those costs.
- In 2018, Stillbirth Foundation Australia established a registry of private sector employers that provide specific paid leave provisions in their employee agreements for parents of stillborn babies. The registry now includes 51 businesses covering nearly 800,000 employees, including Bunnings, Woolworths, Cricket Australia, Optus, Wesfarmers, Telstra, PwC, and Origin Energy.
- Senator Keneally’s Bill will ensure that employees can access the same entitlement to employer-paid parental leave regardless of whether the pregnancy ended in stillbirth or with a live birth and regardless of whether the entitlement is legislative or one arising under an industrial instrument.
MONDAY, 26 JULY 2021
SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
LABOR SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
TONY BURKE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS
MEMBER FOR WATSON
SENATOR MALARNDIRRI MCCARTHY
CHAIR, SELECT COMMITTEE ON STILLBIRTH RESEARCH AND EDUCATION
LABOR SENATOR FOR NORTHERN TERRITORY
SENATOR CATRYNA BILYK
LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA