parents

Happy Mother's Day: Treasurer royally screws over pregnant women.

Thanks for the Mother’s Day gift, Joe and Tony.

You’d think Australia’s Treasurer Joe Hockey and ‘Minister for Women’ Tony Abbott would have learnt from the backlash against the mean-spiritedness they showed in last year’s budget.

But no.

This morning Joe Hockey used his Mothers’ Day appearance on The Today Show to announce that he’s cutting back on paid parental leave for mums that combine government and employer leave to scrape together enough time off to look after their newborns.

Joe Hockey: cutting back access to paid parental leave.

Full disclosure: I’m 21 weeks pregnant; my husband and I are expecting a baby in September. He runs his own small business that’s less than a year old, and I work at an environmental not-for-profit. We just bought our first house – and moved in last weekend – after carefully calculating the mortgage payments that we could afford based on both of our incomes and my maternity leave entitlements.

My job provides six weeks paid parental leave as part of my contract. Six weeks is great, but it’s far from the six months that experts and the Productivity Commission says is the minimum amount of time to foster bonding between a newborn and its primary carer, including (amongst other reasons) supporting the choice many mothers make to breastfeed. And it will hopefully allow me to get through the worst of the sleep-deprivation before going back to work so I can, you know, do my job well.

That’s why my husband and I were relying on the 18 weeks of Government-funded parental leave at minimum wage that working parents have a right to under the existing scheme. 6 weeks plus 18 weeks adds up to 6 months of leave – which we’ve budgeted around, and can manage.

Because as the Liberals’ own website says about the current scheme: “We understand that for new families, there is no ‘leave’ from mortgages, power and fuel bills.”

PPL budget 2015
“Now, we’ll be scraping together whatever income we can to fund those precious first few months with our newborn.” (Photo: via iStock)
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The one good thing that came from the last election was Tony Abbott’s claimed interest in investing in parental leave. But they scrapped their parental leave scheme a few months ago, and now they’re taking a hatchet to parents’ rights to the existing Government paid parental leave of 18 weeks.

Under the current system, mums whose employers do the right thing by offering paid parental leave are able to combine the leave from their employer (for me it’s 6 weeks, although policy work friends tell me it’s an average of 9-12 weeks) with the 18 weeks Government-funded minimum wage pay.

The Government is trying to call it “double dipping”. That would be a fair point — if our Government funded paid parental leave matched the 6 months at a living wage that experts say is necessary. But because the Government’s scheme falls short of this, parents will be scraping together whatever income they can to fund these precious first few months with their newborn.

Anna Rose.

And if you think this might not affect many women, think again. Right now, approximately 47% of women who work have access to employer provided maternity leave – including many nurses, teachers, and other state and commonwealth employed low-paid women, as well as those in higher paying work.

As my friend Mel, who already has one gorgeous little boy and another baby on the way, says:

“What about families like us who are already expecting and have made plans to take maternity leave relying on this? Do I go back to work four months earlier than I had planned to now?”

But Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey won’t announce the full plan until the budget, and it’s likely they’ll need legislation to pass the Senate in order to cut back paid parental leave. So now is our chance to make sure we don’t let them take Australian families’ rights backwards.

In the year since the last budget, many of Government’s key policies have been scrapped as a result of citizens like us saying we won’t accept our rights being cut. You can sign the petition to stop this proposal here.

What do you think of the PPL plans?

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Tony Abbott backs down on paid parental leave scheme.

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