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Council sets gender equality landmark

Council sets gender equality landmark

Published:
Thursday 2 September 2021

A Victorian council has announced landmark parental leave initiatives that came into effect this week to close the gender gap in workplaces.

In a series of firsts for the local government sector, Bass Coast Shire Council will immediately remove the difference between primary and secondary carers, meaning mothers, fathers and same sex partners are now entitled to the same paid leave.

The Council has also set a new industry standard for its 400 employees by increasing paid parental leave from 14 weeks to 16 weeks for both parents.

Superannuation contributions will also now be made for everyone on unpaid parental leave for a full year.

“These actions are bold and designed to address gender-based inequalities,’’ said Bass Coast Shire Council Chief Executive Ali Wastie.

“It’s simply the right thing to do,’’ Ms Wastie said.

“Increasing the length of time for paid parental leave and making it equal for parents has added advantages for the family. New mums, dads and same sex partners will have more time to bond with their babies and support each other in parenting.’’

“Through these actions Bass Coast Shire Council is strengthening our own community and I hope that other public sector authorities at local, state and federal level will follow our example.’’

The Council will promote and encourage the take up of flexible work arrangements for employees with caring responsibilities to allow for working hours to be spread across 24 hours, seven days a week. To increase employee confidence to request individual flexible agreements, approval for these arrangements will be the default position. Refusal must be justified to the Council CEO.

Bass Coast Shire Council abides by the State Government’s rate cap and rates will not increase as a result of these initiatives to reduce the gender pay gap. Costs will be absorbed into existing budgets.

Council support officer Kelly Male who is almost eight months pregnant welcomed the changes.

“These changes will help our family and other families so much. The additional two weeks’ paid leave will help us significantly and the guaranteed superannuation payment for 12 months takes away the worry of missing out while caring for my family,’’ Ms Male said.

Victoria’s Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent welcomed the changes.

“It’s great to see a public sector agency leading the way by removing the definition of ‘primary and secondary carer’ and in so doing, removing assumptions around rigid gender roles for parents and carers,’’ Dr Vincent said.

“In addition to this, by paying superannuation on parental leave, Bass Coast Shire Council is helping to close the superannuation gap, which currently penalises those who take time out to care for theirchildren – predominantly women, who on average retire with significantly less superannuation and less financial security."

Kelly Male - Parental Leave changes
Bass Coast Shire Council support worker Kelly Male with daughter Ilithyia welcomed the parental leave initiatives.