Paid Parental Leave Scheme – ABC AM
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ELEANOR HALL: Several Federal Government programs will start up with the new year next week. One of the biggest is the Paid Parental Leave scheme.
From Saturday, new parents will be able to receive 18 weeks’ of government-funded leave, paid at the minimum wage rate. Some pensions and payments like the disability support pension will also rise.
The Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, spoke to chief political correspondent, Lyndal Curtis, about the changes.
JENNY MACKLIN: The good news is that those babies who arrive from the 1st of January, most mothers will be eligible for Paid Parental Leave for the first time.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Have you already had businesses starting to go through the process because they have women at their workforce who may be pregnant already?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes we do. We’ve had around 1000 businesses already register to be part of the Paid Parental Leave scheme. Some of them will start being the paymaster, the Government will provide the funding, but the employers will provide the money to their employees in their usual pay cycle. Most employers however won’t start playing this role until July next year.
LYNDAL CURTIS: So in the interim the Government will pay the money directly?
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.
LYNDAL CURTIS: The parental leave scheme does impose some obligations on businesses, are they manageable obligations, particularly for small businesses?
JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve really listened to the concerns that small business have, we understand they’re very busy people so we’ve made sure that the money will be in their bank accounts in advance, that we allow the businesses to pay according to their normal pay cycle.
The mother has to do the applying for Paid Parental Leave and she’s the one that has to check with her employer about her eligibility.
So we’ve certainly listened to small business and if there are further changes that we can make to make it easier for small business then we’ll certainly listen to them.
LYNDAL CURTIS: So there is a period where you’ll review the scheme?
JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve got an implementation group. This is the first time Australia’s introduced a national Paid Parental Leave scheme. Of course we want to make sure that it’s introduced smoothly, so we’ve got a range of businesses that we’re meeting with and we’ll talk with them as we implement the scheme.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Some companies already have their own maternity or Paid Parental Leave schemes, are you concerned, have you heard reports that any might drop their own scheme because the Government’s now got one?
JENNY MACKLIN: In fact I’ve had a number of businesses say to me they will keep their schemes and make sure that Paid Parental Leave that’s being introduced by the Government is available on top of their scheme.
So Woolworths for example, Holden, Aldi, Rio Tinto, just to name a range of different types of businesses, have all said that they will maintain their own schemes and that the Government scheme will be in addition to their Paid Parental Leave scheme.
LYNDAL CURTIS: If a company though wanted to drop their own scheme is there any way the Government could prevent it?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ll certainly be keeping a very, very close eye on it and I can assure you that the unions representing those workers will have a lot to say if businesses try to break their enterprise bargaining agreements. We want to make sure that the Government-funded scheme is on top of employer-funded schemes.
ELEANOR HALL: That’s the Federal Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, speaking to Lyndal Curtis.