Thursday, 11 June 2020
Paid Parental Leave Amendment (Flexibility Measures) Bill 2020; In Committee
Michaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business) Share this | Hansard source
Senator Waters, I will respond to the amendments that you've moved. You would be aware that, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government moved quickly to introduce amendments to the Paid Parental Leave Act to allow the time that people spend on the JobKeeper payment to count towards the paid parental leave work test, as I have described in responding to questions from Senator Pratt. The proposed amendment that you have moved has the potential to allow people with a non-genuine claim to be eligible for paid parental leave—for example, people who may have already been planning to leave work irrespective of the impact of COVID-19. The proposed amendment that you have moved would also increase the evidence required for submitting a claim for paid parental leave, adding to the administrative burden including for employers who may be called on to speculate about the work intention of claimants and what amount of work they would have asked claimants to do, but for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. There would be no way for Services Australia to independently verify these claims.
The amendments that you have moved also add a new provision that would allow the secretary to determine that a person would have met the paid parental leave work test if it were not for the impact of an emergency services event. The amendment also allows the minister to declare an event to be such an event and to declare the coronavirus outbreak an emergency circumstances event. In these situations, a person would be deemed to be working the hours they would have been working pre the COVID-19 impacts. The approach is similar to that currently applied to people who do not meet the work test due to a pregnancy related complication or illness, or a premature birth. However, these events are relatively rare and easily verified. The amendments that you have proposed would also require assessments on a significantly greater scale, creating additional administrative burden, including for employers. On that basis, the government will not be supporting the amendments that have now been formally moved by the Australian Greens.