The Federal Government’s Paid Parental Leave bill that passed the Senate yesterday has received mostly bipartisan support, as well as its fair share of criticism.
Kevin Rudd’s Paid Parental Leave scheme will give mothers (only, despite being labelled ‘parental leave’) 18 weeks paid maternity leave at the minimum wage of $590 per week starting January 1st 2011. Professor Marian Baird of the University of Sydney believes the Federal Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme at 18 weeks long will place Australia in the middle of the pack according to international practice whilst the opposition’s rival scheme would have Australia amongst the leaders in the world.
Dr Sharman Stone, Shadow Minister for the Status of Women took the opportunity at passing the bill to highlight the Liberal Party’s plans for a more extensive PPL scheme which would extend out to six months, include fathers (2 weeks optional leave) as well as increase the salary paid via a levy on ‘big business’.
“Countless submissions to the Productivity Commission and a Senate Community Affairs Committee inquiry put a strong case for the international standard of 26 weeks paid leave.” Dr Stone said.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick congratulated the Government on passing the PPL bill, but mirrored some of the sentiment of the Liberal Party’s Dr Stone in suggesting it could go much further.
“This scheme is a very welcome first step which will form a solid base to be improved over time,” said Commissioner Broderick. “Improvements would include the addition of superannuation, an extension of the period of paid leave and moves towards lifting the level of payment.”
Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout was quick to point out the costs involved, but overall welcomed the plan.
“There will be compliance costs for business, which are always onerous, however the reform is one which we are confident will prove to be beneficial for Australia.” Ms Ridout said.
A spokesman for COSBOA, Peter Strong, was critical of the bill not taking into account recommendations from COSBOA during the consultation process.
“the government went to great extremes to consult with industry about the best approach to Paid Parental Leave and then decided to ignore the advice. We have heard suggestions that small business can be given the choice to opt out of the payment process and we believe that should be part of the PPL Bill. The small business owner can then make a decision about involvement in the process based on business needs and the time that will be taken to complete the required paperwork.” Mr Strong said.