The federal government has announced that paid parental leave will be included in Tuesday’s budget, with a commencement date of 1 January 2011.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, said it was an historic day for women and parents in Australia.
“The implementation of a paid parental leave scheme in Australia is a major triumph for not only mothers and parents, but for our community,” said Commissioner Broderick. “Not only does it send a strong message that women matter in Australian workplaces, but it is a critical piece of social infrastructure that will help deliver stronger economic outcomes for families, businesses, the economy and our community as a whole.”
The Commissioner said the scheme would assist women to maintain skills and income by encouraging workplace attachment for workers who have historically been forced to downgrade in both areas when they have a child. It would also benefit businesses, and therefore the economy, through the preservation of corporate intelligence and skills.
Ms Broderick emphasised that Paid Parental Leave is a workplace entitlement and should be available to all women, not just those earning less than $150,000.
Commissioner Broderick also thanked the many organisations that had advocated so hard over the last three decades and particularly, in the lead-up to this budget. She said their tenacity was one of the main reasons we are now seeing implementation of a paid parental leave scheme.
Acting Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA), Mairi Steele, said, “When I came to Australia from the UK 15 years ago I was really shocked to find out that Australia didn’t have a government funded paid maternity leave scheme in place. Yesterday’s announcement has been long awaited by women and men in this country and marks a significant step forward for working parents.”
The EOWA says there has been some discussion about what employers with schemes will do once a government scheme is introduced. Annually around 3,000 non-government organisations report to EOWA on their programs to promote equal opportunities for women. Of those organisations, just over 50% already have paid parental leave schemes in place and there is no evidence that these organisations will be withdrawing their schemes once a Government scheme is introduced.
“I don’t see why employers who already have schemes in place would get rid of them”, said Ms Steele. “By combining the Government scheme with their own scheme, employers will be in a much better position to hold onto valued staff and to attract people to work for them.”