The Federal Government has tabled amendments to the paid parental leave scheme which will effectively limit the Paid parental Leave (PPL) scheme to 18 weeks for thousands of Australian women.
Currently in Australia, working parents are entitled to a total of 18 weeks of tax-payer funded leave paid at the minimum wage rate of $672.60 per week before tax. New mothers eligible for the PPL scheme are also entitled to any additional paid leave provided by their employer. Under proposed changes mothers will not receive the PPL scheme if they are receiving the additional paid leave provided by their employer. This is despite Australia’s paid parental leave entitlements falling below the average for OECD countries.
In the 2015/16 budget, the Federal Government described this system as ‘double dipping’ and announced plans to only allow access to the government payment if a worker had no workplace entitlements to parental leave. If a worker had workplace leave entitlements that were less than the Government scheme, employees could claim the difference from the Government scheme. The measure lapsed during the election, and has now been revived in the form of the Fairer Parental Leave Scheme Bill, which was put before Parliament last week.
It must be recognised that PPL is a workplace right for mothers and an essential component of any attempt to address the gendered wealth gap, improve women’s workforce engagement and ensure positive health outcomes for mothers and their children.This petition to stop this workplace right for women from being undermined commenced on 29/10/16 and closed on 7/11/16. The petition has been addressed and emailed to the following Senators.
Senator Derryn Hinch, Senator Jacqui Lambie, Senator Nick Xenophon, Senator Stirling Griff, Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore and Rebekha Sharkie MP
Copies have also been sent to The Hon Bill Shorten MP; The Hon Richard Di Natale; The Hon Jenny Macklin MP; The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP; Senator Claire Moore and Senator Penny Wong.
The Senate Committee for the Inquiry into the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill 2016 has accepted this submission and allocated it submission number 17.
Included in the 600+ Signatories are women, men and the following organisations:
- Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (ACLW)
- National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW)
- Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL)
- UN Women National Committee Australia
- Business and Professional Women (BPW) Australia
- WIRE Women’s Information
- Women with Disabilities Victoria
- Union of Australian Women Victoria
- Australian Women’s Health Network
- Maternity Choices Australia
- NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS)
- Council of Single Mothers and their Children Vic
- YWCA Canberra
- Ethnic Community Services Cooperative
- International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA)
- National Council of Jewish Women of Australia
- Women’s Health West
- Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition (VIRWC)
- Women’s Community Health Network WA
- Soroptimist International Moreton North Inc
We are writing to express our concerns about the proposed changes to the paid parental leave scheme and ask you to oppose the proposed changes to Australia’s current PPL scheme in the Senate.
Our current scheme is already a bare bones scheme compared to other similar nations which was designed to operate as a public/private partnership, encouraging business to become enthused about their role in ensuring women can both parent effectively and return to the workplace. According to the OECD’s PPL Report[i] Australia’s current PPL scheme falls below the average for OECD countries. It is one of the least generous in the world. The OECD’s PPL Report ranks Australia’s current PPL scheme as the third lowest in the OECD, with only Portugal and the USA having lesser entitlements.
The existing scheme aimed to improve women’s health; improve babies’ health; and develop a culture of promoting PPL as a gender equality measure in workplaces and the broader community.
The proposed amendments will reduce women’s choices about when to return to work. The implications of forcing women back to work before they are ready go well beyond the period of leave; the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children[ii] found that women who took between 13 and 26 weeks parental leave were more likely to report that they were suffering from mental distress for up to two years than women who took more than 26 weeks; and the long term benefits to children of breastfeeding exclusively to 6 months are well known: improved brain and cognitive development, measurable impact on school performance and later life and a decreased risk of obesity have all been clearly identified as benefits of prolonged breastfeeding.
Furthermore, the proposed amendments break down the developing culture of employers and Government having shared responsibility for PPL. To suggest that women are ‘double dipping’ completely misrepresents the nature and design of the scheme. Enterprise agreements top-up the minimum entitlements provided by Government to provide access to additional paid leave. Removing access to the Government scheme imposes an unexpected and unwarranted financial burden on families and denies employees access to freely negotiated conditions of employment. Such entitlements contribute to allowing more time for breast feeding, bonding, and child development.
We already have a significant gendered wealth gap in this country. Financially disadvantaging women who take time off work to be with their babies will only contribute to that gap. New mums will need to decide to either forego the lost income and attempt to survive without it, or be forced back to work before they’re ready, losing valuable bonding time and incurring additional childcare costs.
Overall, paid parental leave is not just about economics and productivity but also about ensuring children get a good start in life. We are counting on you to stand up for Mums and bubs and help protect our paid parental leave.
We the undersigned (Individuals and Organisations) ask that you vote against the proposed amendment to the current paid parental leave scheme.
[i] OECD. 2016. OECD Family database – Social Policy Division – Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs https://www.oecd.org/els/soc/PF2_1_Parental_leave_systems.pdf
[ii] Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Paid Parental Leave evaluation: Phase 1 Occasional Paper No. 44 https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/06_2012/op44.pdf
More info: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/paid-parental-leave-australian-parents-set-to-become-worst-off-in-the-developed-world-20161027-gsc6kq.html