Australia catches up to the world on paid parental leave
On Tuesday this week, 25,000 Australians delivered a clear message straight to the people who represent them in the nation’s Parliament.
Signing a national petition, nurses, teachers, hospitality and construction workers, uni students, school kids, their mums and dads, their grandparents demanded that their elected representatives stand up and vote for the Rudd Government’s national paid parental leave scheme.
After waiting decades, working families are set to be the big winners when the Government delivers Australia’s first paid parental leave scheme and Australia finally catches up with the rest of the developed world on this vital reform.
This landmark reform gives new mothers the financial support to make their own choices about work and family responsibilities when their baby is born.
Mothers who meet the work test – who have worked for at least of 10 of the 13 months before their child is born and for around one day a week during those 10 months - will be eligible for 18 weeks paid parental leave at the national minimum wage of $570 week.
Currently only half of all Australian women have access to paid parental leave, with those on low incomes most likely to miss out. For the first time, the thousands of women who are casuals, who are employed in low-paid or part-time jobs, who are self-employed, are contractors or work in seasonal jobs will have access to paid parental leave.
As one young mother told the Productivity Commission inquiry into paid parental leave, she had no alternative other than go back to work just four weeks after the birth of each of her three children. She worked nights and weekends so her partner could be at home for the babies; for years, she said, they were like ships passing in the night.
For mums and dads like this, our scheme eases the financial pressure. It also expands their choices, offering them the option to share the leave so they can choose what works best for their family.
Of course everyone knows that hard work comes with the territory whether you’re a mum going out to work or at home with the kids. This is why we support families through a range of payments including the Baby Bonus, Family Tax Benefits A and B as well as our paid parental leave scheme.
We also know how important it is for workforce participation and national productivity for women to stay connected to the workforce while they are having their children. This is why new mothers will receive their government-funded parental leave pay through their employer on their regular pay day. We will continue to work with employers to minimise the scheme’s impact on them and to make implementation as simple as possible. Employers know paid parental leave helps them retain their staff; it makes good business sense. Some have already indicated they plan to use the government-funded scheme to complement their own schemes and give their employees greater choice.
For 12 years, the Liberals in government not only denied Australians the benefits of paid parental leave, they actively railed against it. Opposition leader Tony Abbott said paid parental leave would only ever happen over his dead body.
Now he’s talking about rolling out a sham scheme that will hit business with a massive hike in the company tax rate. Under the Liberals, company tax will increase to 31.7 per cent. Under Labor, company tax will drop to 28 per cent. The Liberals’ tax hike will flow through and hit families with higher grocery prices. And it won’t let mums and dads make their own work and family choices. Under the Liberals’ scheme mothers won’t be allowed to transfer their leave.
Tony Abbott just doesn’t understand the reality of life for Australian working families and the different choices different families make raising their kids.
He still doesn’t understand what Australian families want and what this Government has delivered – a national, government-funded paid parental leave scheme that’s fair for families and fair to business.
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