Australia Rates Second Worst in Paid Parental Leave

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Thank you Jessica Irvine for reminding Australians about the point of having a Government assisted Paid Parental Leave Scheme in your recent article –  Paid parental leave: Australian parents will become the worst off in the developed world.

We’d all be forgiven for failing to recall why it’s fundamental to the social and economic fabric of our society with the various and constantly changing views of our politicians over the last 15 years.

Cast your mind back to 2004 when the Howard Government were prompted to introduce the ‘Baby Bonus’ (not to address a fundamental equality that women must take leave when having a baby but to address the low birth rate crisis). Remember Costello’s famous quote: “have 3 children, one for mum, for dad and for the nation!” The baby bonus was the Howard Governments version of a paid parental leave scheme – the box was ticked and the policy door closed on the issue for years.  Fast forward 7 years to 2010 and the Rudd Government declares Australia must lead by example alongside other OECD nations with a ‘proper’ PPL scheme – but decides they can’t be too generous because requiring the Government to pay more than the minimum wage for 18 weeks (post the GFC) won’t go down well with everyday battling Australians without kids.

Then came Tony Abbott with his extraordinarily extravagant (by comparison to Labor’s deal) PPL scheme proposal at a time his party was declaring a budget emergency.

His ‘bigger, better PPL scheme’ idea – the multi-billion dollar policy, not to be financed by Government, but by a levy on big business. Then that was scraped in favour for – not a bigger better PPL scheme but – a scheme where funding would be diverted into affordable child care. Suddenly tax funded nannies was on the cards.

Is anyone still following all this or have you lost – like most of us – where Australia stands on PPL?  Bare with me – the story isn’t over yet.

Then there was Joe and Scott. Then-treasurer Joe Hockey, social services minister Scott Morrison and the prime minister spent Mother’s Day 2015 accusing women who used the Government scheme of fraud, rorting and ‘double dipping’.

Post 2016 election a bill is being introduced to ‘crackdown’ the double dipping – yes, that accusatory sentiment is on the cards again.  The Turnbull Government, silent on the issue before now, has already wavered within a week of the proposed changes being announced declaring that ‘as men’ they are ‘sympathetic’ to the issues women face.  Really?

Confused on where our Politian’s stand?

Whilst the Governments have been busy changing their minds about how to support – or not to support – paid parental leave, businesses have stepped up their support year upon year.  There has been a steady increase from 35% to 54% of business funded PPL schemes according to EOWA.

Some great examples of this according to EOWA:

Real estate advertisers REA Group recently announced they will provide primary carers with 26 weeks leave at full pay and secondary carers with 12 weeks paid leave; the first six weeks at full pay, and the remainder at half pay. In order to minimise the impact of career breaks on superannuation balances, they will also pay an employee’s super for the entire period of leave, up to 12 months.

Accounting firm Grant Thornton announced that primary carers would have access to 20 weeks paid parental leave from 1 May this year, followed by 26 weeks leave at full pay from 1 May 2017.

Despite the business communities efforts, it’s a crying shame the Government seems on the road to nowhere which will undoubtedly leave Australia a miserable ‘last’ on the OECD PPL league table in 2017.

To read what the purpose of Paid Parental Leave is and what other countries are doing with PPL read Paid parental leave: Australian parents will become the worst off in the developed world.

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