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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr STEWART (Lang) .- Unfortunately I did not have an opportunity to speak on a matter at the committee stage, and I take the opportunity of raising it now. It has reference to the grant of recreation leave to employees of the Commonwealth Public Service. I shall first read an extract from a letter which I received from the secretary of the Public Service Board. It is in these terms -

Permanent officers of the Service are eligible for three weeks' recreation leave upon the completion of the first twelve months' service and thereafter on the 1st January each year (Public Service Act, Section 68), provided there has been no temporary service prior to permanent appointment, in which case special conditions apply. Should an officer submit his resignation he may be granted any recreation leave due to him in respect of the Calendar year in which his services terminate provided he has reached the anniversary in that year of his date of appointment to the Service. There is no provision whereby pro-rata recreation leave or payment in lieu thereof may be made to a permanent officer for an uncompleted year of service.

The secretary of the Public Service Board mentioned section 68 of the Public Service Act, which I shall now read for the benefit of the House: -

68.   - (1.) The Chief Officer may grant to every officer of his Department leave of absence for recreation for any period or periods not exceeding eighteen days in the whole in each year, exclusive of Sundays and holidays. (2.) The regulations may provide for the reduction, by reason of a period of absence from duty, of the period of leave of absence for recreation which may be granted to an officer.

The act stipulates, therefore, that if a person has had leave of absence for some other reason during a particular period of twelve months, his recreation leave may be reduced accordingly. On the other hand, a permanent officer who resigns from the service before completing a particular period of twelve months' service does not receive any pro rata payment in lieu of leave.

The particular case I have in mind concerns an employee of the PostmasterGeneral's Department. He commenced work in the Public Service on 11th January, 1954, so that his first period of recreation leave became due on 11th January, 1955. His annual recreation leave thereafter fell due on 1st January in each year. This employee worked until 1959. His fifth period of annual leave became due on 1st January, 1959, and he subsequently took that leave. On 1st January, 1960, he would again have been entitled to his annual recreation leave. Being dissatisfied with the area in which he was employed, he tendered his resignation, to take effect on Christmas Eve, 24th December, 1959. That was the date on which he was due to commence the annual leave that was to fall due on 1st January, 1960. Because he submitted his resignation, to become effective before the annual leave became due, the PostmasterGeneral's Department, following Public Service instructions and standard practices, said that no leave was due to him because the annual leave did not fall due until 1st January, 1960.

This man worked until he was within seven days of a full year's service, but because he resigned seven days before the end of that full year he lost all the payment for public holidays over the Christmas period, plus payment for the three weeks' annual leave to which he would have become entitled seven days later. The significant point is this: Had he commenced his annual leave on 24th December, 1959, and then submitted his resignation while on annual leave, to take effect from the date of completion of that leave, he would have lost nothing. He would have been entitled to his annual leave and to the public holidays. But, having resigned a week too early, he lost the four days public holidays and the three weeks annual leave, and he received no payment in lieu thereof.

It seems wrong that an employee should lose all his recreation leave after having worked for only a week less than the full twelve months period. In the case of State government employees, and employees in industry generally, provision is made for pro rata payment in lieu of annual leave. In the Commonwealth Public Service, however, while recreation leave may be reduced because of absence from duty during the year, the Public Service Board, working under its regulations - I cannot see any authority for it in the act - deprives employees of payment in lieu of annual leave if they resign before the expiration of a full twelve months period of service.

This seems to be a most unjust regulation, and I believe the Public Service Board - apparently it has the necessary authority - should provide for pro rata payment in lieu of annual leave accrued to a permanent officer who resigns before the date on which his annual leave becomes due, which in all cases is 1st January in the second year of service and every subsequent year. A temporary employee can receive pro rata payment, but a permanent employee cannot. I feel sure that few members of this Parliament realize that this practice is followed by the Public Service Board, and I feel sure, also, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who generally appreciates fairness and justice, is unaware of this procedure, which is followed in accordance with Public Service instructions and standard practices. I suggest that the Government should take action to ensure that pro rata payment is made for annual leave due to permanent employees of the Public Service who resign at some time within a particular twelve months period. I ask the right honorable gentleman to rectify this injustice.

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