Thursday, 17 October 2019
Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Work Test) Bill 2019; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Work Test) Bill 2019, and I begin by stating that Labor supports this bill. This bill will improve the paid parental leave work test by extending eligibility for women who work in dangerous occupations or who have irregular employment. The bill will enable more working parents to be eligible for paid parental leave by expanding the work test to include two parent groups: women who are unable to continue in their job because of the hazardous nature of their employment with no safe job alternatives and mothers with a work gap greater than eight weeks between the two working days during the work test period. Australia's national paid parental leave scheme is a proud Labor legacy, introduced by the Labor government, now in its eighth year, having commenced on 1 January 2011. When the paid parental leave scheme was introduced, Australia was one of only two OECD countries without a national scheme, the United States being the other.
The purpose of the paid parental leave scheme is to provide financial support to primary carers of newborn and newly adopted children to allow those carers to take time off work to care for the child after the child's birth or adoption, enhance the health and development of birth mothers and children, enable women to continue to participate in the workforce and promote equality between men and women and the balance between work and family life. Paid parental leave signals to employers and the Australian community that parents taking time out of the paid workforce to care for a child is part of the usual course of life. It also enables participation of women in the workforce. A high workforce participation rate is important in the context of an ageing population and helps to address the gender pay gap, particularly for those women on low and middle incomes who have less access to employer funded parental leave. Paid parental leave plays an important role in closing the gender pay gap. We know that women are usually the primary carers of children, but we need to make sure that men are supported, empowered and encouraged to take on more caring if we're going to close the gender pay gap. Paid parental leave also allows mothers and fathers to look after their children in their most critical development years without sacrificing career progression or ability to work and to do so without eating into their savings. As I've started, Labor will be supporting this bill.