Could paid parental leave be a tipping point for the 2016 election?

With the Australian 2016 budget due to be released tonight, one of the main topics on most new and expectant parents minds will be paid parental leave.

Under the Abbott government, new parents who claimed paid parental leave entitlements from their employer and the government were accused of double dipping. In the 2015 May budget the then government said it would put a stop to parents’ double dipping by preventing them from accessing the Government Paid Parental Leave scheme when they could receive paid parental leave from their employer. The reasoning behind this was to ensure there was a system in place for lower income earners to access funding while ensuring those on higher incomes weren’t disproportionally acquiring paid leave. It was estimated this would affect approximately 80,000 new parents.

However, this proposal was left in limbo, as were many parents, as the Turnbull government came to power. And up until recently new and expectant parents were still in limbo – and still are to a degree. The Turnbull government recently conceded that changes to the policy will not be made in time for legislation to be passed prior to the next election (due to happen in July). So, for now, the current policy will be left in place. And just in case you’re unsure what the current policy is… new parents can claim paid parental leave via the government scheme and their work scheme (if their employer provides one).

The government policy provides 18 weeks of paid parental leave up to $11,500 for primary care givers earning $150,000 or less per year. But – and it’s a big but – if the government is re-elected in July it has committed to making changes to the policy which still leaves expectant mums and those planning a family in limbo on what entitlements they will receive.

PPL Blocks white

For a modern western society like Australia, where the focus is on getting mothers back into the work-force, this uncertainty over policy means parents are forced to choose between delaying a family due to doubt over income, returning to work early, or taking the parental leave to stay at home and enjoy those early months of parenthood (which go by very fast in hindsight) but reducing their standard of living.

Now, I’m a mum of two and have been through this over the last few years. I’m lucky enough to have had an employee paid parental scheme through work – though if I’m being honest it’s not as fabulous as some other western countries but that’s a debate for another time. I’m also all for equality, fairness and reducing standards of living if needed. But what happens if this government is not re-elected? How long do new, expectant and potential families need to continue in this vacuum of uncertainty?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

What is the paid parental scheme where you are?

 

Footnote: Featured image from mamamia.com.au

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