While these days I write about parenting, fashion and other fun stuff here at Kid Magazine, in my Uni days I studied Human Resources and wrote my Honours these on parental leave in the Royal Australian Navy. I spent a year researching and studying parental leave, not just in the Australian Defence Force but also in many Australian organisations. I then went on to work in Human Resources, where I was involved in many discussions about parental leave from an organisational perspective. It is because of this that I feel I must make comment on the current shakeup to the Australian government paid parental leave scheme, one that will affect so many Australian families.

An argument

The argument I have heard over and over again in relation to any type of taxpayer funded schemes for parents (including paid parental leave and childcare benefits) is “somebody else’s decision to have kids isn’t my responsibility, so why should my taxpayer dollars pay for it?” Well, just as it is beneficial for society to have well educated children and hospitals that can adequately provide care to people, it is beneficial (and in fact vital) to society for babies to be born.

And further, it is also beneficial to society for women to be actively employed and remain in employment. Where mothers are unemployed or underemployed, this has negative effects on families and in turn society. I would also argue that organisations are made stronger by employing women at all levels. It has been shown that organisations with diverse leadership outperform organisations that do not have a level of diversity in their leadership teams. For a strong economy we need strong organisations.

So, if it is beneficial for society for women to have babies (fact: women birth babies), and for women to be employed, then as a society are we not responsible for supporting something that will benefit us?

The changes

From July 2016, parents who have access to a paid parental leave scheme through their employer will no longer have access to the government paid parental leave scheme unless their total entitlement through their employer is less than the $11,500 offered by the government in which case they can “top up” to reach this amount. For parents who do not have access to an employer provided paid parental leave scheme, their entitlement to the government paid parental leave will remain unchanged.

Double dipping

Treasurer, Joe Hockey, when announcing the changes, made the statement that this would stop parents from “double dipping” into paid parental leave. But organisations offer paid parental leave as a competitive advantage. They recognise the value and need to have parents in the workforce. Long gone are the days when you were required to resign upon getting married and having a baby and they have been replaced with organisations and leaders who, generally, value their female employees (excuse the generalisation but it is women who are the main group to access paid parental leave) and want to put incentives in place to attract and retain good talent. Paid parental leave is just like any other benefit one might see as part of an employment contract: performance bonuses, staff discounts, generous superannuation payments, employee development and training. How then is it double dipping?

My concern is for couples who were planning to start trying for a family in the next 6 or so months who may now have to put plans on hold while they save additional money (say $11,500??) to be able to now afford the time off from work. This paid parental leave scheme when it was first introduced was a step towards a better system for parents in Australia. My fear is that these changes take a giant leap backwards and that many families will be impacted as a result.

What do you think of the changes? Do they impact on your future family plans?

 

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