Paid Parental Leave Overhaul Slammed
17 August 2015 at 11:23 am
The Australian Human Rights Commission has warned that the Abbott Government’s proposed cuts to paid parental leave would breach Australia’s international human rights obligations and increase the gender pay gap.
In her submission to a Senate Inquiry into the Fairer Paid Parental Leave Amendment Bill, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said the Government was at risk of driving women away from the workforce.
The Bill is designed to crack down on mothers who access both their workplace entitlements and the $11,539 taxpayer-funded scheme.
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has said that the Bill will save $968 million over the forward estimates and create a level playing field for working mums.
But Broderick said the Government’s efforts could have the opposite effect.
“The proposed amendments to the (Paid Parental Leave) Scheme would ultimately detract from existing Australian Government policies to improve economic outcomes for women, increase women's workforce participation rates, and reduce the barriers faced by women when balancing work and family responsibilities such as through key initiatives in childcare,” Broderick said.
“The implementation of the proposed amendments would exacerbate the current gender pay gap by effectively limiting parental leave payments to 18 weeks on a minimum wage for all women whose employers do not 'opt in' to provide payments exceeding 18 weeks' pay.”
Broderick said the Government was also at risk of violating its human rights obligations.
“On its face, the Bill is a retrogressive measure, inconsistent with Australia's international human rights obligations,” she said.
“The Commission considers that full consideration and justification is required prior to the introduction of any retrogressive measures.”
Shadow Minister for Families and Payments, Jenny Macklin, said the Commission’s warning should be taken seriously.
“The Australian Human Rights Commission has today added its voice to the growing opposition to Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison’s cuts to Paid Parental Leave, arguing the cuts are a breach of human rights,” Macklin said.
“Today’s revelations follow a report last week by the Joint Parliamentary Human Rights Committee – chaired by a Liberal – which also claimed the cuts may be a breach of international human rights conventions.
“If passed, these cuts will see up to 80,000 new mums lose part or all of their national, government funded Paid Parental Leave. This means they will be forced to spend less time with their newborn babies.”
In defending the Bill, Morrison told The Australian newspaper that he was determined to press ahead with revamping the scheme and making it fairer.
“The government stands behind the measure that will ensure the taxpayer-funded PPL scheme acts as a safety net for those families who do not have access to generous public-sector or corporate schemes,” Morrison said.
“The evaluation report into PPL showed the introduction of the government scheme has not led to an increase in the time parents are taking away from work to be with their new infant beyond 18 weeks and … for single-parent families there has been a reduction in the amount of time taken. Our scheme will deliver more targeted support for those who need it most.”