Fears for parental leave

The existing scheme provides 18 weeks government pay at the national minimum wage, currently $657 per week, to new parents.

PPL was designed to top up employer parental leave and enable women to reach 26 weeks or more in leave with their newborns.

The proposed changes, flagged in the Federal Government’s mid-year economic and financial outlook, would cut the number of weeks an employer gives a new parent.

According to Sydney University’s Women and Work Research Group, 160,000 families used PPL last year and 50 per cent of women received some employer PPL.

It found the changes would affect about 79,000 women, resulting in financial losses of up to $10,000.

Retail workers, teachers and ambulance officers were found to be the most affected.

WA Labor Senator Sue Lines said any change to PPL would negatively affect women in the workforce.

“Here in WA we have an increasing number of women who are the primary breadwinner in their home. Their economic stability is at risk under this plan,” she said.

“We also have an increasing number of women in casual and part-time work who would miss out under (the proposed) plan.”

Ms Lines said women would be more likely to return to the workforce before they were ready under the proposed scheme.

“If working women don’t have access to a fair and equitable PPL they’ll return to work earlier, missing out on time with their children, or they’ll make other sacrifices and not return to work at all,” she said.

State School Teachers’ Union of WA president Pat Byrne said the union was concerned a revised scheme would force women back to work too early.

“The SSTUWA is concerned that the proposed changes will force women back to work before they or their children are ready (and) affect the attraction of young men and women to the teaching profession… potentially (undermining) women’s participation and equity in the workplace,” she said.

“The proposal would change PPL from an industrial entitlement aimed at boosting women’s participation in the workforce and instead make it a welfare safety net provision.”

Ms Byrne called on cross-bench senators and MPs to ensure the purpose of PPL was not lost.

“The SSTUWA urges all MPs, especially cross-bench Senators, to carefully review the changes to ensure the aims of PPL are not undermined,” she said.

Minister for Women and WA Senator Michaelia Cash did not return a request for comment.