The attack on paid parental leave: what you need to know

On Mother's Day the Abbott government announced an attack on paid parental leave that will rip leave rights away from 79,000 new mums.

Here’s what you need to know about the proposed cuts: 

*The recommended leave time a new parent is supposed to spend with a newborn is around 26 weeks. This is seen as the period of postnatal leave needed to provide health and welfare benefits to mothers and babies. The government's own economic advisor the Productivity Commission also thinks there are reasonable grounds to expect benefits - for parents, babies and workforce participation - from longer periods of exclusive parental care for up to 9 – 12 months.

*The government's changes drag us backwards, and will force thousands of parents back to work earlier than experts say is needed for health and welfare benefits. The existing government scheme provides new parents with government leave of 18 weeks at the minimum wage. This is provided as a minimum safety net for new parents, and comes with the option of covering the costs of spending the full 26 weeks at home with their newborn by topping up the government's 18 week page (at the minimum wage) with any additional paid leave an employee has negotiated into their employment contract.

*The current scheme was designed to be used in conjunction with employer provided leave. When the current scheme was introduced it was supposed to exist as a minimum safety net for new parents, to be used in combination with leave from employers -- to allow more parents to access  additional income they might need if they want to spend the recommend 26 weeks or more at home with their newborn. In fact in informing the design of the current scheme, the Productivity Commission specifically noted that the ability for primary carers to combine government and employer provided leave was something that can and should happen. 

Employer schemes are supposed to be used to top the minimum 18 weeks up – to help more women get access 26 weeks paid parental leave, and enable things like breast-feeding and bonding between parents and babies. [2]

*The government's cuts will probably exacerbate childcare problems. The current paid parental leave scheme has successfully decreased the number of children under 12 months old in childcare, because it has allowed primary carers to extend their time at home. But if the Abbott government attack succeeds it's likely primary caregivers will be forced back to work, and that will have flow on effects on our already strained childcare system. The system already struggles with caring for babies between the 6 - 12 month mark. Experts expect this will exacerbate those problems.[3]

*The current system is doing what it's supposed to. It has been extending the amount of time new parents can stay at home in line with the recommended period. And it has been providing a system that has helped ensure women’s workforce participation didn’t suffer as a result of having a child. Paid parental leave is supposed to help provide a connection for new parents to their workplace while they’re caring for their newborn. If parental leave doesn’t work as it’s supposed to; it creates a system that prompts more women to drop out of the workforce. That’s a problem that contributes to the alarmingly high gender pay gap, and leaves women economically disadvantaged over their lifetime.[4]

*It’s a backflip worthy of a gymnastics medal. During his election campaign Prime Minister Abbott sung from the rooftops about the importance of extending parental leave to 26 weeks, because "the bills still keep coming in and there is no 'leave' from mortgage payments, power and fuel bills". Now, his government wants to reduce the amount of time people who work can spend caring for their newborns. His government's proposed change will drag tens of thousands of women further away from the 26 weeks recommended parental leave time, and leave 45,000 women stuck with just 18 weeks of minimum wage income instead.

*The Government will need the support of the Senate to make this attack law. That means we have a chance to stop this. In the 12 months since the last budget, countless government measures have been scrapped as a result of voters speaking out.

Will you join the more than 15,000 voters already standing against this proposed change with Fair Agenda? Sign the petition now at


1. Federal budget 2015: Almost 50% of mums to lose government paid parental leave entitlements, SMH, 11 May 2015.

2. Federal budget 2015: Almost 50% of mums to lose government paid parental leave entitlements, SMH, 11 May 2015. 

3. Paid parental leave in this year’s budget, The Drum, 11 May 2015.

4. Paid parental leave in this year’s budget, The Drum, 11 May 2015.