The federal government’s budget for 2022-23 updates paid parental leave, with the promise: “No household will be worse off under these changes.”
Over a five-year period, $346.1 million will go towards an “enhanced paid parental leave scheme”. Those families who are eligible will enjoy up to 20 weeks of leave, bringing Dad and Partner Pay together with Parental Leave Pay (PLP).
The budget states: “These changes will give working families increased choice and flexibility in how they manage work and care.”
There is also a change to the household income test, with the new threshold set at $350,000.
Hall & Wilcox partner Fay Calderone commented: “The changes aim to remove barriers to women’s workforce participation and to encourage more men to access PPL. We know there are both structural and cultural barriers to men taking leave and they are more likely to be adversely affected in their employment for taking it.
“These changes may help by starting to change the national narrative about gendered roles and embolden more male employees to access their entitlements that are now under a paid government scheme rather than relying upon employer policies to fill the gap for them.”
The 2022 budget also provides for single parents as well as fathers and partners. The budget said:
“Changes also mean eligible single parents will be able to access an additional two weeks of paid parental leave and also benefit from the household income threshold test. Changes to the scheme also mean dads and partners will be able to access the government’s scheme at the same time as any employer-funded leave, in the same way mothers currently can.”
Australian Women Lawyers president and Flinders Chambers barrister Leah Marrone stated: “While men/‘non-birth parents and single parents can now take more of the leave pool on offer, which is welcome, there is no additional leave overall. As the pay is still at the minimum wage there is less incentive for many men who, particularly due to the gender pay gap, are often the higher income earner in the relationship.”
“Certainly there will be some situations where the maternal parent is the higher income earner, many of whom may be lawyers, and this would benefit them, there will also be some that benefit from the change in the income threshold, however for the vast majority of couples in Australia this will not be the case,” she outlined.
And Ms Marrone pointed out: “Superannuation is also not included. With all of these things considered together I see no real incentive or support in this budget for working people having children.”
Ms Calderone has also observed shortcomings with the budget, stating she “would have liked to see the paid scheme extend to parents who have suffered the trauma of stillbirth or losing a child in the first two years of their life. There are unpaid leave provisions in the Fair Work Act for parents in these circumstances but the paid scheme has left a big gap for these families.”
Maxiom Injury Lawyers principal Sach Fernando highlighted the challenges the legal profession faces in realising any benefit from this budget announcement. He mused: “While the rate of paid leave continues to be pegged to the minimum wage, there will be minimal change.
“The changes announced to parental leave does not provide any financial incentive to members of the legal profession wanting to start a family. I fear it could disincentivise fathers even further to take up any additional parental responsibilities. Until women in the legal profession are paid more, there will be minimal change to traditional parenting roles.”
Lawyers Weekly’s coverage of the 2022 budget can be found here.