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Long Service Leave: Do Young Workers Even Dare to Dream About It?


“Long service leave would give me the opportunity to reset into healthy habits and have something to look forward to in life,” says Nicolas, 28. He’s been with his employer for two years, but he thinks about the prospect of taking long service leave in the future with cautious optimism. 

“I’d use the time to develop as a human being, more than just someone's worker.”

As we spoke with workers to gather attitudes towards long service leave, something became apparent very quickly. The first thing on workers’ minds when faced with the prospect of three months’ paid time off wasn’t a dream holiday or a grand adventure. 

The thing people want most is to take a deep breath and recharge.

“I’d take the time to read a lot of books! I never get time to read anymore,” said one worker who responded to the Young Workers’ Centre’s recent survey on the matter. 

“I sometimes feel I’m getting burnt out, but taking extended time off is not really a realistic option for me,” said another. 

Working for 40+ years without ever taking the time to take a breath and reflect isn't a good idea for anyone, but with increased casualisation and the two-tiered labour market it creates, some workers are being locked out of the opportunity to recharge their batteries.

Time “Off” Isn’t True Time Off

James-Anthony Consiglio has been a chef for 12 years. The nature of his work means he does a lot of seasonal work across multiple employers. As a result, he hasn’t been able to build up long service leave with any of them, despite being regularly employed in the industry far longer than the usual seven years at which many workers can access the entitlement. 

Given the demands of the industry the extended break is not just attractive, but necessary for health and wellbeing. 

“It’s an industry with such a fast pace that it would give us time to recharge. It’s also an industry with really poor mental health and it’s not always a great lifestyle, so for workers to be able to take some time off, you’d be much more likely to want to stay in the industry as a whole. 

“The benefits to everyone, even employers, would be huge.”

Insecure work can often mean that some casual workers do get a lot of time “off” but forced down time between shifts or jobs is often financially and emotionally stressful; it’s not a real break. 

“People are tired!” says James. 

“It’s really hard working 70-hour weeks, six months of a year, and then having to fight for your stolen wages for three months because you were paid for 30 hours instead of 70. And then you have to frantically find another job. The work is inconsistent, but we really don’t get proper down time to relax.”

Workers in his industry are not only in dire need of something to give them time to recharge, they’re also the ones least likely to receive it under the current laws. 

“Because of casualisation and insecurity in our workplaces, you’re lucky if you stay at a single venue for even one year,” he says. 

“I don’t think I’ve stayed in one place for more than a year. Most of the people I know would probably say the same.”

Like so many others, his first thought when thinking about a long break wasn’t of travel or adventure. 

“I don’t get a lot of time with my family, so getting to reconnect with them would be a big thing. On top of that, there’s so many other things that would be good for the soul, you know? 

“Art, culture, exploring your own backyard, reconnecting with old friends, reconnecting with yourself, following passion projects. So many things that get put off because of work.”

Portability is the Key

The idea of portable long service leave - where your time accrued would follow you from employer to employer - isn’t a new one. The Victorian Government has implemented a portable long service leave scheme for the contract cleaning and security. In 2019 the ASU Vic-Tas was able to win portability across the community services sector in recognition of the huge benefits to the workforce. There is also a private sector scheme in the construction industry.

Employers, rather than managing the entitlement themselves and paying it directly to workers upon their accessing the leave, instead pay into a general fund that workers withdraw from when they reach the threshold. It drastically simplifies the question of who pays when a worker takes long service leave. 

Recently, however, the idea of portability for all workers, regardless of industry or employment status, has been gaining momentum.

“Long service leave provides a much-needed break from the demands and stresses of work, to encourage rest and recovery before returning to work,” says VTHC Secretary Luke Hilakari.

“Long service leave is not a ‘reward’ for years of service to a particular employer, it is an earned entitlement that has been circumvented by employers through the use of a casualised workforce.

“All workers should be able to access long service leave, and I think portability is a policy change that would have massive benefits in the lives of working people.”

Do you think about long service leave? Do you see yourself on a faraway beach, or nestled in a stack of books, or just enjoying sleeping in? Fill out the Young Workers Centre’s survey (regardless of your age) and let us know what you think, as we try to start a conversation around this long overdue change. 

Working for 40+ years without ever taking the time to take a breath and reflect isn't a good idea for anyone, but with increased casualisation and the two-tiered labour market it creates, some workers are being locked out of the opportunity to recharge their batteries.