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Carer Leave

Position paper

This position paper – A case for an extended unpaid carer leave entitlement? – was released on 28 February 2023. It looks at the potential economic and social impacts of adding an entitlement to extended unpaid leave to the National Employment Standards.

The paper finds that such an entitlement would benefit some carers and improve the quality of care provided to some older people, however it would impose costs on employers. Extended unpaid leave is also not the highest priority for the majority of carers. Other policies – especially better access to flexible work – would make a bigger difference for more carers.

The final report is expected to be handed to the Australian Government by May 2023.

Under the Productivity Commission Act 1998, the Government is required to table the report in each House of the Parliament within 25 sitting days of receipt.

Download the position paper

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  • Media release
  • Contents

Extended unpaid leave will not plug Australia's carer gap

Providing workers with an entitlement to extended unpaid carer leave would benefit a small number of workers and care recipients but would not make a material difference to Australia’s carer gap.

The Productivity Commission today released a position paper – A case for an extended unpaid carer leave entitlement? The paper looks at the potential economic and social impacts of adding an entitlement to extended unpaid leave to the National Employment Standards, so that working carers can take extended leave to care for their loved ones. The inquiry was recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Many older people benefit from the care provided by their family and friends. And while caring can be a source of personal satisfaction, carers – who are mostly women – can find it difficult to combine their work and caring responsibilities.

“The choices people make about how to care for their loved ones are personal and influenced by several factors. When a family member needs more care, some working carers feel they have little choice but to quit their job or retire early to care,” Commissioner Catherine de Fontenay said.

The Commission has put forward a potential model for an extended unpaid leave entitlement, based on evidence about the likely effects of different design features, and the need to align with the features used in the National Employment Standards for other types of leave.

Overall, the Commission found that few employees would use an entitlement to unpaid leave to care for an older person. “It would not substantially increase the number of informal carers, the workforce participation of carers, or reduce the demand for formal care,” Commissioner Martin Stokie said.

Extended unpaid leave is also not the highest priority for the majority of carers.

“What most working carers of older people want is greater access to flexible working arrangements. When carers and employers can work together to find mutually agreed arrangements, everyone benefits. Recent changes to strengthen the right to request flexible work in the National Employment Standards (to take effect in June 2023) are expected to provide carers with greater workplace flexibility, and in time, could further reduce the need for an entitlement to extended unpaid leave.

“It is important that carers are well informed about how to request flexible working arrangements,” Mr Stokie said.

Other policies identified by the Commission that would make a big difference include:

  • reducing waiting times for home and respite care (so informal caring is a choice not a necessity)
  • reviewing the definition of carer relationships in the National Employment Standards
  • ensuring eligibility requirements for income support payments do not unnecessarily limit carers’ participation in work, study and volunteering.

The Commission will hold public hearings on the position paper in March and will take submissions until 28 March 2023. The final report will be given to the Government in May 2023.

The full report can be found at

Media requests

Kristen Connell on 0400 054 227 /

  • Preliminaries: Cover, Copyright and publication detail, Opportunity for comment, Terms of reference, Acknowledgements, Contents
  • Executive summary
  • Draft findings, draft recommendations and information requests
  • 1. Background to this inquiry
    • What we have been asked to do
  • 2. Informal care for older people
    • What do we know about informal carers of older people?
    • The care and support provided by informal carers
    • Providing care affects many aspects of carers’ lives
  • 3. Employment standards relevant to balancing work and care
    • Use of workplace entitlements to balance work and care
    • Adequacy of leave entitlements for supporting employees with caring responsibilities
    • Flexible working arrangements
  • 4. Our approach to entitlement design and assessment
    • Potential objectives of an entitlement
  • 5. Entitlement design choices
    • Leave duration
    • Notice periods
    • Who should be eligible?
  • 6. Assessing the potential effects of an entitlement
    • How many employees would use an entitlement?
    • Impacts on employees
    • Impacts on care recipients
    • Impacts on employers
    • Impacts on taxpayers
    • The long run costs are unlikely to be evenly shared across the economy
    • Overall impact
  • 7. An extended unpaid leave entitlement for other carers?
  • 8. How else could carers of older people be supported?
    • Financial support
    • Access to formal care
    • Easier access to flexible work
    • Expanded definitions of caring relationships in the National Employment Standards?
    • Other supports
  • A. Public consultation
  • References

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

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