Thanks to the efforts of IEU members and their colleagues in other unions and community organisations, the Federal Government has backed away from its plan to cut access to the national Paid Parental Leave Scheme.
The legislation, which the government proposed in 2015, would have adversely affected those IEU members whose enterprise agreements provide for some paid maternity leave. This includes the many women in Catholic and independent schools who receive 14 weeks paid leave from their employer when they take leave for the birth or adoption of their child.
Around 80,000 Australian new mothers would have been disadvantaged by the proposed changes and risked losing all or part of the $12,508.20 benefit (18 weeks pay at the federal minimum wage).
IEU members will recall that the then Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey scathingly referred to women who accessed both employer paid leave and PPL as “double dippers” and other federal MPs spoke of women “rorting the system”.
These comments revealed a misunderstanding of the history of paid parental leave whereby unions had negotiated paid leave as part of industrial bargaining, including foregoing other pay increases or benefits. The national PPL scheme brought Australia in line with many other countries with long established paid parental leave arrangements and was intended as a basic scheme to complement employer provisions.
Due to union and community pressure, which resulted in the failure of the proposed legislation to pass the Senate, the Federal Government announced in the recent Budget that the proposed PPL changes were “off the table”.
The Hands off Paid Parental Leave campaign has achieved a significant win for IEU members and other women and families throughout Australia.