The Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, has announced the government will allow for more flexibility around the way parents access their entitlements for paid parental leave.
Currently, the scheme must be claimed across a single 18 week period. The proposed changes would allow paid parental leave to be taken in blocks.
The existing scheme currently provides for parents to access paid parental leave in the form of the national minimum wage of $719.35 a week before tax for a maximum of 18 consecutive weeks.
“We know there are thousands of parents who don’t access all of their parental leave payment, which means that they are missing out. It’s a pretty rigid system right now. You’ve got your 18 weeks, and you use it or you lose it,” O’Dwyer said.
O’Dwyer hopes the proposed changes, which must pass Parliament before taking affect would provide families with greater choices around their parental leave arrangements.
She suggested the existing scheme penalised many women who were self-employed and can ill-afford to take 18 weeks away from their business.
“We want to give them the flexibility to choose, to take their parental leave payment in blocks, in the way that suits them. And we also recognise that there are many fathers who also want to spend time as the primary caregiver with their families as well.”
The scheme has been welcomed by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell said today, who suggested Australia’s small business owners will appreciate the flexibility of the new-look paid parental leave scheme
“Mum and dad business owners often don’t get to use their whole paid parental leave entitlement because they have to be back at work soon after the baby is born; sometimes as soon as a couple of weeks.
“To expect a self-employed parent to exit their small business for an 18-week block is unrealistic and unworkable.
Carnell described the scheme as “more family-friendly and small business friendly”, saying it gives parents the ability to make choices on how they manage the first crucial years of childhood.
“Today, 34 per cent of all Australian business operators are women and they need to be able to organise their business in a way that works for them after having a baby.
“While you have to take the first 12 weeks as a block in the first year, the flexible use of the remaining six weeks will go a long way to ensure their small business can maintain momentum. It will allow part-time work arrangements or small blocks to be taken at a time that suits the new parent.
“Ideally, we would like the government to consider allowing small business owners flexibility around the use of the first 12 weeks as well.”