Business fumes after Labor rejects bill to relieve SMEs of red tape burden in paid parental leave scheme
Businesses are fuming after the government knocked back proposed amendments to the new parental leave scheme that would see SMEs relieved of the burden of administering payments to employees.
Council of Small Business of Australia chief executive Peter Strong says “the anger is quite amazing in the small business community”.
“I met with Oakeshott and he told me that one of the biggest concerns he has is that small businesses are losing too much to compliance costs and he said we need to do something about it,” Strong says.
“And then the next day he votes for more compliance costs. It’s quite extraordinary.”
Strong says the philosophy being espoused by the government is that women need to be connected to their workplaces and suggests using small businesses as administrators will make it easier for future laws.
“I think in the long term the government could say they want parental leave paid by business or they make a ruling that businesses need to top up the Government’s scheme by 20%. It just makes it easier for them in the long term,” he said.
The Australian Retailers Association said its members were outraged by the rejection of the private member’s bill, saying it would have saved businesses from “an administrative nightmare”.
Executive director Russell Zimmerman said the paid parental leave scheme was a good move but too much red tape will keep small businesses burdened.
“Retailers are already managing the impacts of a lot of legislative change at the moment including the new Australian Consumer law, new employer obligations and the second phase-in of the modern award due to commence in July,” Zimmerman says.
“This is a ludicrous decision that will burden retailers, including smaller retailers, with pointless administration.”
Opposition small business spokesman Bruce Billson said in a statement he was “flabbergasted” that the independents would “ignore the concerns of small business”.
“The failure of the Gillard Labor Government and some independents to take concerns seriously will force all employers to become PPL ‘pay clerks’ and paves the way for a union campaign to force all employers to introduce and increase ‘PPL co-payments’ to make up for deficiencies in the Government scheme,” Billson says.
“This is despite the Productivity Commission directly warning against employer PPL ‘co-payments’ because of the harm it will cause in terms of discrimination against women of reproductive age and added financial pressures on cash-strapped employers.”
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also expressed its disappointment, saying the rejection of the bill was short-sighted.
"The government says employers should be involved in the scheme’s administration because parental leave pay is a workplace entitlement just like sick leave or any other form of leave. This is wrong,” director of workplace policy David Gregory said.
“The PPL scheme is an entitlement created and funded by Government as distinct from other forms of leave which are provided and funded by the employer under the terms of relevant awards or agreements.”
The paid parental leave scheme will become mandatory on July 1.