Paid Parental Leave should not be used for political point scoring

| September 3, 2013

One of the hottest topics of Election 2013 is Paid Parental Leave. IR consultant Michael Cosgrove outlines where the parties sit on the issue.

So the election draws close. The ads have been running thick and fast. Social media has probably never experienced such traffic.

One policy platform for both major parties seems to get daily mention, and that is Paid Parental Leave. Now we’ve all seen the ad. The quiet, tea drinking elderly lady detailing how, when she was young and starting a family, that she never asked nor received government assistance. Detailing simply how the Coalitions priorities are not focused. That may well be the case, but elderly pensions are a completely different issue all together, so their relevance is somewhat misguided.

Let’s take a snapshot look at the major parties policy:

The Australia Labor Party’s current scheme is administered through the employer, provides 18 weeks paid parental leave at the national minimum wage, no superannuation, is subject to a “work test”, and is capped at $150,000 pa salary level.

The Coalition proposes mothers being provided with 26 weeks of paid parental leave, at greater of actual wage or national minimum wage, plus superannuation. If they elect to be the primary carer, fathers will be paid at the lower of the father’s or mother’s wage or the national minimum wage with superannuation. This will be administered through the Family Assistance Office.

The Greens propose six months of paid parental leave at the full regular wage, capped at $100,000 pa. This includes superannuation contributions. Two additional weeks of leave for the secondary carer will also be provided at the same rate. These will be funded by a 1.5% business levy on companies with taxable incomes that exceed
$5 million and an additional government contribution of $1.9 billion over forward estimates.

One point is clearly evident with every policy. The likelihood of pleasing everyone is non-existent. However, to make the support for working women a political point scoring issue begs the question, do any of the possible leaders of the country really know what it takes to raise a family in todays economic climate?

Now some will disagree, but a woman who earns $150,000 per annum is certainly not rich. In fact I would think that most of those woman would say that the pressure of the monthly bills is still very much apparent.

Politics, egos and dollar figures aside, stripping back the issue to the basics should make it clearer for everyone. The policy objective is the assistance of pregnant women and their families. Granted some will be assisted financially more than others. But how is that a fault of the policy? And if you think it is, what would you propose that makes it more equitable whilst taking into account the very real impact on the country’s budget?

Now whilst the elderly lady would not have received any assistance from the government to raise her children, lets put a bit more context around the issue as a whole.

She wasn’t paying $1.70 per litre for fuel, $5 for a loaf of bread, $3 for a litre of milk, $80 per day childcare, or hundreds of dollars a month on a mortgage. The wages in her day were relative to the cost of living. Most will agree the greater percentages of wages today are not relative to the cost of living, and this country now suffers from the middle class working poor.

So whose policy is better? That depends to whom you speak and which political party they support.

Will business be burdened with increased costs? Possibly yes, but there are strategies that business can put in place to mitigate the impact of any of the policy’s.

At the end of the day the focus should be on supporting women and their families without the scaremongering or misguided and ill-informed political campaign ads.

Michael Cosgrove is the Owner/Director and Senior Industrial Relations Consultant for Rivercity Consulting. He is a published subject matter expert in My Business and Family Business Magazines, and a regular contributor to several HR and IR blogs and publications.