Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave: because babies matter!

The paid parental leave of thousands of educators remains under threat as the Turnbull government continues its efforts to pass legislation cutting entitlements.

Under the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave (CPPL)’s current arrangements, which were introduced following wide consultation and research, including recommendations from the Productivity Commission, eligible applicants can access an employer contribution (14 weeks full pay, 28 weeks half pay) and the 18 weeks of CPPL at minimum wage (currently $672 a week).

But the proposed legislation targets primary care givers who have an employer entitlement, reducing their access to the CPPL if the combination of the CPPL and employer paid leave exceeds 18 weeks. QTU members entitled to paid maternity leave (PML) will, under the proposed legislation, only be able to access their 14 weeks from the employer and four weeks from the CPPL. There is no clarity of what would happen should a teacher access their employer entitlement at half pay (28 weeks).

If passed into law, the bill will:

  • force women to return to work before they or their babies are ready
  • reduce the rates of babies being exclusively breastfed for the first 26 weeks, as recommended by the World Health Organisation
  • put additional financial pressure on young families
  • increase the challenge of attracting young men and women into teaching in key skills shortage areas
  • fundamentally change PPL from an industrial entitlement aimed at boosting women’s participation in the workplace to a welfare safety net provision
  • undermine women’s participation and gender equity in the workplace. 

Late in October the government flagged that the proposed changes would be introduced to Parliament and were planned to take effect from 1 January 2017. This would have meant expecting parents could no longer access 14 weeks of the CPPL ($9,400 approx.) and were being notified of this change only months before the birth.

Following extensive lobbying of cross benchers, the planned changes were halted. The Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill 2016 has been referred to a Senate Committee for inquiry and report.

The following is an excerpt from the AEU’s submission to the Senate committee:
“The Fairer Paid Parental Amendment Leave Bill (2016) takes the Scheme away from the design recommend by the Productivity Commission. It is not supported by the findings of the expert evaluation of the Paid Parental Leave scheme, nor by current Australian or international research. It does not reflect the growing demands of Australians for policies that allow both men and women to balance work and family life. It doesn’t reflect the realities of life in Australia’s major cities in which both partners need to work in order to afford a home. It goes against the trend of other OECD countries who are expanding rather than shrinking paid parental leave provisions. Its capacity to achieve savings is arguable and it will create unexpected budget problems in the maternal health and childcare budgets. It unfairly targets Australian working women, particularly those working in the public sector. It represents poor public policy and should be rejected.”

At the time of going to print, it appears that the status quo remains until at least 1 July 2017.

The QTU understands how stressful and confusing this is for pregnant women and families trying to plan their finances and their futures. We will continue to ensure that current and relevant information is available through QTAD and our website.

Penny Spalding                                                                                                             Assistant Secretary - Women's and Social Welfare Issues

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 1, 10 February 2017, p21