Majority of businesses say individuals should take responsibility for paid parental leave

A majority of small businesses believe employees should handle maternity payments themselves through their own savings while only 4% believe businesses should provide some form of payment, a new survey reveals.

The study comes as the Senate is expected to pass the paid parental scheme legislation in the next few days. The new scheme will see employers distribute payments made by the Family Assistance Office and is set to begin January 1 next year.

The Bank of Queensland survey also shows 53% of business owners believe paid maternity leave is the individual’s responsibility, while 34% believe it is the Government’s responsibility and 5% believe it is the employer’s responsibility. About 8% said they have “other views”.

Even more businesses are against paternity leave provided by businesses, with 63% believing such payments should be the individual’s responsibility.

The study shows 28% believe paternity leave should be the Government’s responsibility, while just 4% believe it is the employer’s responsibility. Only 5% had “other views”.

Bank of Queensland group chief executive David Marshall said in a statement the survey reflects the dispute among businesses about the amount of red-tape involved in the Government’s maternity pay scheme.

“Clearly there are some very strong views on who should be responsible for paid maternity leave,” Marshall said. “Overwhelmingly, small business owners see it as the responsibility of the individual, rather than business owners, or the Government.”

“And the debate is proving to be even stronger regarding paid paternity leave, with 63% saying that the individual should bear the financial responsibility.”

The survey reflects the sentiment of a number of business organisations, including the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, that businesses need to stay out of the parental leave scheme altogether.

The Government’s scheme will be fully funded by the Family Assistance Office, but businesses will need to actually make the payments to employers. Peter Strong, chief executive of the National Independent Retailer’s Association, says this is a bad decision.

“Every Government always says they will not increase red tape. This addition is completely unnecessary, it just adds an extra part of the process,” he says.

“They want to keep employees connected through this process, but you shouldn’t impose new red tape on a business just out of philosophy. The way to stop all this is to just make the payments directly to the person.”

Both the AIG and ACCI said in their submissions to a Senate inquiry they were both concerned over business’s role in distributing the payments to employees.

“To insert a third party, such as the Government agency and workplace inspectorate, into the employment relationship, will create undue unnecessary workplace disputation and friction between employers and employees,” ACCI said.

The subsequent senate report did not recommend any changes to the payment scheme, meaning the legislation will require businesses to distribute payments to employees.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said outside Parliament today the scheme is “extremely important, it is key to making lives easier for working families”.

Additionally, the BOQ survey found 83% of business owners prefer staff to stay at home when they’re sick, rather than come to work, but only 42% said they would stay at home if they were also sick.

A further 64% of business owners say they have missed an important family event due to work commitments, while 63% say they take less annual leave than their employees.

But a majority of business owners said these sacrifices were worth the effort, with 96% saying they would prefer to run their own business rather than work for someone else.

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