House debates

Tuesday, 31 August 2021


Paid Parental Leave Amendment (COVID-19 Work Test) Bill 2021; Consideration in Detail

7:20 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury) Share this | Hansard source

I had foreshadowed in my speech on the second reading that Labor would be moving detailed amendments to the bill to address the issue of paid parental leave in the circumstances of family violence. The member for Blaxland spoke in his contribution on the bill about the way in which he had advocated on this, coming from the most tragic circumstances of his constituent Ms Amani Haydar, whose father murdered her mother in March of 2015. She had to take extended leave from work to deal with the consequences of the murder of her mother and to look after her younger sisters. But she was then rejected in her application for paid parental leave because she didn't meet the work test. She had worked 95 days rather than the required 100 days.

The member for Blaxland wrote to Minister Ruston in February to suggest that this mistake be fixed, that the government make changes to the administration of paid parental leave that would ensure that someone in Ms Haydar's circumstances was not rejected for parental leave, as was the case. Minister Ruston wrote back to the member for Blaxland and said that the government did not intend to make such changes. So it should not have taken this long for the government to make changes such as these, to make changes that recognise that, in the unique circumstances of family and domestic violence, it is critical that people are not disqualified from paid parental leave.

On the basis that the government has moved these detailed amendments, Labor will be withdrawing our detailed amendment, which has been circulated, which aims at substantively the same issue. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that there is a family violence exemption to the work test. And I would point out that there are work test exemptions for women undertaking dangerous jobs, such as jockeys, and for women with pregnancy related illnesses. So dealing with this issue is not something that ought to have been difficult. The measure that we are calling for is consistent with Labor's private member's fair work amendment bill, tabled in parliament last year, and our call for 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave.

We must do more to ensure that women are kept safe from domestic and family violence and that the effects of domestic and family violence are minimised to the greatest extent possible by public policy. We know that family and domestic violence is the leading cause of death, disability and illness among women aged 15 to 44, and we know that two out of every three women who experience domestic and family violence are in the workplace. So the workplace must be an essential component of the government's family violence policy response.

Dealing with or fleeing family violence takes a lot of time, planning, effort and resources. It creates upheaval within the family unit. It can be costly, both financially and mentally. And we all know the bravery that it takes to flee an abusive relationship and the uncertainty surrounding such a decision. It is an extraordinarily stressful time, and it has been made especially stressful for women dealing with domestic or family violence in the context of the current COVID lockdowns. They may be forced to stay at home with their abusers because they are unable to easily access their safety plans.

The situation of women facing violence or abuse may mean that they need to take time off from working for a range of reasons. A woman who is fleeing her abuser may need to go into hiding and may not be able to continue in her job in the short term. We do know that the incidence of domestic and family violence does increase when women are pregnant. Horrid as that thought is, it is a time of particular risk, and it is vital that this House supports women who are at risk of family violence. The government should be doing everything at its disposal to assist these women. Labor is pleased that the government has belatedly moved to address this issue. On that basis, as I have said, Labor will be withdrawing our detailed amendments.

Question agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.


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