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In 2021, Labor published its National Platform that included a goal for parents to access 26 weeks of paid parental leave. Despite calls from many advocacy groups, Labor dropped this policy from its agenda prior to this year’s election.

An increase to paid parental leave was also discussed during Labor’s recent Jobs Summit and was supported by unions and business groups. However, this proposal was not listed as one of the Summit’s outcomes. Prime Minister Albanese did note that extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks was “worthy of consideration”, but would be difficult to implement in October, due to budget constraints.

Independent crossbenchers Zali Stegall, Allegra Spender and Kylea Tink supported an increase in paid parental leave, urging the Government to act within the next 24 months. Fellow Independent, Senator David Pocock has also made his stance clear, "the community wants this to happen, the unions want this to happen, business wants this to happen, the balls are in the government's court."

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister stated that extended leave was one of the clearest calls that came out of the Jobs Summit and officially announced the Government would legislate to increase paid parental leave to 26 weeks.

From 1 July 2024, two weeks of paid parental leave will be added to the scheme each year until it reaches 26 weeks by 2026. Paid parental leave will continue to be paid at the National Minimum Wage, but without superannuation.

The Government will also introduce reforms to modernise the scheme by allowing parents to split the 26 weeks. The scheme currently provides 18 weeks of leave for the primary caregiver and two weeks for a partner. Other changes include allowing parents to take leave in blocks between periods of paid work.

During his speech, the Prime Minister stated "It’s a modern policy, for modern families. It delivers more choice, it offers greater security – and it rewards aspiration.”

Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott extended her support stating the changes would help boost the economy by allowing parents to stay in the workforce. The changes would also help close the gender pay gap by boosting women’s participation in the workforce.

Additional details to modernise the scheme will be announced with the budget on October 25.

If you would like more information about the legal implications of the proposed changes and how they may affect your business, you can contact our experienced Employment and Workplace Law team for assistance.

This article was contributed to by Solicitor, Maida Mujkic.