Long service leave was introduced in Australia in the 1860s. The idea was to allow civil servants the opportunity to sail home to England after 10 years’ service in ‘the colonies’. It was 13 weeks for every ten years of service, composed of five weeks to sail back to England, three weeks of leave and five weeks to sail back!
It remains one of the great entitlements for working Australians and one that is peculiar to the Australian labour market. The rules governing long service leave entitlements vary for different employees depending on their circumstances and their jurisdiction. Currently, annual leave entitlements are covered by the state or territory law in which the employee is employed.
In the 19th century, furlough, was a privilege granted by legislation to the colonial and Indian Services. In Australia, the benefits were first granted to Victorian and South Australian civil servants. The nature of the leave allowed civil servants to sail ‘home’ to England, safe in the knowledge that they were able to return to their positions upon their return to Australia.
The concept spread beyond the public service over the period 1950 to 1975, mainly as a result of pressure from employees seeking comparability with the public service.
Nowadays, long service leave is ingrained in Australian culture and is specified by state based and some federal legislation. It is often not taken when it falls due, leading to calls to reduce long-service entitlement in the public sector
This article appeared in our August 2015 newsletter.