Currently, IEU members in schools are able to access 14 weeks of PPL (for most employees) provided by their employer in addition to the 18 weeks paid leave by the government at the minimum wage to complement existing employer schemes.
If the Coalition Government’s proposed, Fairer PPL Bill 2015 is passed by the Senate, this is likely to change. The Bill recommends substantial cuts to the current government scheme which could mean that IEU members could lose up to $11,862. Members who currently have access to both employer and government schemes could set to lose significant financial assistance, often when they need it the most.
The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) recommends the Bill be rejected. The NFAW has labeled the government proposal “purely and simply a savings exercise which runs contrary to the advice of national and international bodies with expertise in child development”.
PPL increases productivity by making it easier for parents to balance paid work with family responsibilities. In the absence of government support, working women may be forced to leave the workforce, reducing their work experience and accumulated skills.
In comparison with other developed countries, Australia lags behind the average amount of leave available to mothers. A restriction or abolition to the current 18 weeks will leave Australia as one of only two developed nations not to have a PPL scheme for working parents.
The former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, in her submissions to the Senate Inquiry into the Fairer PPL Amendment Bill 2015, came out in support of the current scheme.
The Commissioner found that in removing the ability of individuals to benefit both from the employer scheme and the PPL scheme, the Bill is contrary to the original purpose and foundations of the PPL Act.
Further, the submission indicated that proposed cuts to paid parental leave would breach Australia’s international human rights obligations and increase the gender pay gap. Commissioner Broderick along with the view of IEU members considers this to be a regressive step that may negatively impact working mothers.
For the Coalition Government to originally promise an increase in the PPL and then subsequently to introduce such retrograde reforms at the cost of the health and well being of new mothers and their babies is of significant concern for all Australian workers. One would imagine the period following the birth of a child is one of the hardest financially for parents. It is crucial to remember that this is an industrial provision which was won by the likes of teachers and support staff. PPL was fought for and was won over 30 years of campaigning. To simply watch it disappear through the exercise of government policy would be unacceptable to all IEU members. The proposed cuts would be disastrous for all workers, but particularly for teachers, who are predominately women and receive lesser pay than others in comparable professions.
This is why the IEU is calling on all members to show their support for our Hands off Our Paid Parental Leave Campaign by writing to their local MPs to express your concerns regarding the cuts. Further, members are strongly encouraged to sign the ACTU’s petition in order to preserve and save the current scheme.
For more information visit the IEU website.