A powerful union has attacked the Federal Government for failing to resolve inconsistencies in its Paid Parental Leave scheme, which is set to launch in less than a fortnight’s time.
According to the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association, the new scheme clashes with the National Employments Standard scheme, arguing it is more generous and will therefore cause confusion in the workplace.
For example, under the NES, parents must have worked for the same employer for at least the past 12 months, and can only take up to six weeks leave prior to the birth of their child.
But under the Paid Parental Leave scheme, workers are eligible after only 330 hours of work across 10 of the 13 months before the birth.
Under the NES, the leave may end if parents return to work early. But under the new scheme, parents can suspend payments for up to 10 days in order to “keep in touch” with work. The union wants both of these matters resolved.
The union also wants changes to give parents the right to return to work before their period of unpaid leave finishes if they give their employer four weeks’ notice.
A union spokesperson says even if a woman has a stillbirth and wants to return to work before the 12 months, she would not have this entitlement under the current scheme.
“A woman is only able to come back to work earlier if the employer agrees. She has no right to return to work earlier if she changes her mind,” he says.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson says the framework should not undergo any immediate changes for the sake of employers.
“We would think there are a range of issues in terms of how businesses have had to adapt to the new rights in employment standards, and I think it’s probably best to wait awhile on those issues before any major changes are made,” he says.
A spokesperson for the Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans says the government will change legislation to achieve more unity between the two schemes, but this may not occur until February.