Changes to paid parental leave offer more flexibility to self-employed parents

Kelly O'Dwyer

Kelly O'Dwyer supports criminal penalties for serious exploitation. Source: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas.

The Morrison government will increase the flexibility available to families underpaid parental leave entitlements under a new policy announced yesterday.

Minister for Women Kelly O’ Dwyer said the federal government will change the paid parental leave scheme to allow parents to access payments in pieces, rather than in one block.

Currently, parents must access the 18-weeks of commonwealth-supported parental leave, paid at the minimum wage of $719 each week, in one chunk.

Under the changes, parents will be able to access the scheme in smaller chunks, which will allow them to return to work on a part-time basis and still receive taxpayer support for time off.

Workers who experience domestic violence will also be able to access their super early under the coalition’s new plan, which is worth $109 million over four years.

O’Dwyer said the increased flexibility would support employees and small business owners.

“Families actually want more choices about their family arrangements,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

“[The current system] doesn’t take into account that there are many women who are self-employed, who are running their own small businesses, and who can’t spend 18 weeks away.”

Council of Small Businesses of Australia chief executive Peter Strong welcomed the policy, dismissing a suggestion the increased flexibility may make life harder for some employers.

“Employers and employees will sort it out … this gives the opportunity for people to return early,” he tells SmartCompany.

Asked at a Press Club lunch on Tuesday about how SMEs would be affected by the policy, O’Dwyer said small businesses are “very enthusiastic” about the policy.

“Business does benefit when they’re able to retain talent in their organisation,” she said.

O”Dwyer made the policy announcement alongside her 2018 women’s economic security statement, but did not match a Labor commitment to extend super payments to those on parental leave.

Labor announced a $400 million policy in September to boost superannuation for women by providing those on parental leave with super payments.

Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek said in a statement on Tuesday that O’Dwyer’s announcement was “too little, too late”.

NOW READ: “A lay-down misere”: Calls to relieve super burden on SMEs as royal commission focuses on superannuation

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