House debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019


Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Work Test) Bill 2019; Second Reading

9:59 am

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Work Test) Bill 2019 (the bill) introduces changes to the work test for paid parental leave aimed at better supporting working mothers to access the Paid Parental Leave scheme.

The Australian government understands the important role of paid parental leave in supporting the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies and in encouraging workforce participation. To this end, the measure in this bill is designed to support more working mothers to access paid parental leave. The measures in this bill were outlined in our Women's economic security statement that builds on the success we have had to date in removing barriers for women's economic participation.

There are around 300,000 births in Australia each year, with nearly half of all new mothers accessing paid parental leave. The scheme provides eligible working parents with 18 weeks of payment at a rate based on the national minimum wage, currently $740.60 per week—a total of $13,330.80 over 18 weeks.

The government considers that working parents should be entitled to paid leave to spend important bonding time with their newborn or newly adopted child in those important early months. This bill provides for a more generous work test to make it fairer for women who have a long and genuine working history yet still often fail the work test because of the industry in which they are employed.

From 1 January 2020, a longer break between two working days will be allowed under the paid parental leave work test rules.

To meet the current paid parental leave work test, a parent must have worked 330 hours in 10 of the 13 months before the child's date of birth. A parent can have a break of up to eight weeks between two working days in this period and will satisfy the present work test.

In some professions, such as teaching, there may routinely be a longer break between two work days, which prevents mothers from accessing parental leave pay, despite having a legitimate attachment to the workforce.

The government believes that these working mothers should be entitled to paid leave to allow them time to recover from the birth, bond with their baby and receive the health and developmental benefits that the Paid Parental Leave scheme can help facilitate. Hopefully to return to teaching sometime in the future, with the important role of educating our children.

To address circumstances such as those faced by casual teachers, the permissible break between two working days will be increased to 12 weeks.

This change will make sure more women with a genuine connection to work are able to access the government's Paid Parental Leave scheme.

To further enhance the fairness of the paid parental leave system, the work test rules will also be modified to take into account circumstances where pregnant women are in occupations where it would be unsafe for them to continue working during their pregnancy, so that they are able to get paid parental leave.

Under the new rules, the work test would begin 392 days immediately before the day on which the mother ceased work because of the hazards in her job, meaning more women in dangerous industries will now be eligible.

It was never the intention of the Paid Parental Leave scheme that a mother should miss out because the nature of her job poses a risk to her and her child's health.

These important changes to the Paid Parental Leave scheme are about improving the fairness of the current system and providing support for genuine working mothers.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.