As the 2022 federal election campaign nears its end, the Labor Party has confirmed it will not yet seek to increase Commonwealth-funded paid parental leave entitlements to 26 weeks, nor would it add superannuation to the parental leave payments.
Under the current paid parental leave (PPL) scheme, primary caregivers are eligible for up to 18 weeks ‘parental leave pay’ at the national minimum wage, while ‘dad and partner pay’ is available for up to two weeks, also at the national minimum wage.
If re-elected, the Coalition intends to modify the paid parental leave scheme so that families can fully share the 20 weeks’ entitled leave under a single system, while also introducing a combined household income threshold to expand the scheme’s eligibility. However, the current government has not proposed extending the total number of weeks on offer.
Labor’s national policy platform includes a “goal” of extending the parental leave scheme to 26 weeks, with superannuation contributions to be paid for by government and employers, as well as greater provisions for the paid leave to be shared. The party has said it will also seek “further expansion of leave in a way that enables more equal parenting”.
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However, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese confirmed on Thursday the party is not taking this policy to election day on May 21.
Speaking to the media in Gladstone, Queensland, Albanese said the party has only offered “clear commitments for things that we are absolutely certain can be delivered” in the context of Australia’s high debt levels.
Albanese said a Labor government would work towards “repairing the way that Australia works so that people arn’t left behind” and his party’s “biggest commitment” to improving the economic participation of women is through its childcare policies.
Research from Chief Executive Women this week highlighted Australia’s paid parental leave program as one of the obstacles preventing more women from participating in the workforce.
According to the economic analysis, conducted by Impact Economics and Policy, halving the workplace participation gap between men and women would lead to some 500,000 full-time skilled workers with post-school qualifications entering the workforce.
Inadequate paid parental leave was one of a number of barriers to increased workforce participation canvassed in the report, alongside low wages in female dominated industries, high childcare costs and tax policies that lock women into unpaid caring roles.
It is an issue that is being addressed by a growing number of private companies, which have expanded and extended their own paid parental leave policies. This is particularly the case in the technology sector where the likes of Blackbird Ventures, Linktree and 99designs have all recently adopted more generous and inclusive policies for families.
Writing for SmartCompany last week, Marque Lawyers workplace relations counsel Wesley Rogers highlighted that Australia’s 18-week PPL scheme has “barely changed since its introduction 12 years ago” and it remains one of the least generous among OECD countries.
“Our PPL scheme is due for a thorough re-examination,” wrote Rogers. “One that acknowledges the diversity of family make-up and size, including same-sex couples and single parents.
“Our system needs to support these families through the early months of childcare, encouraging both parents (if there are two) to take leave. And with the last two years shaking up how we balance work and family, there has never been a better time to return to bold ideas.”