Election day has come and gone for another 3 years, and as television programming gets back to almost normal and the bunting and placards come down, it is time to focus on what some of the Coalition's election policies might mean for employers (if this year's promises are kept…).
The Coalition's proposed parental leave scheme - a $6.1 billion policy that would see parents receive more financial support than ever before - got an enormous amount of attention during the election campaign. Some voters cringed at the thought of tax dollars paying for North Shore lady lawyers to have their kitchens renovated with each new addition. On the other side, renowned feminists hailed the policy as a major advancement. With the Coalition now in Government, its paid parental leave scheme is likely to get more air-time. So what is this scheme, and how is it different to what we have now?
Like Comparing Abbotts and Oakeshotts
On 1 January 2011 the Labor Government introduced Australia's first universal paid parental leave scheme. The Coalition's scheme, which would commence on 1 July 2015 if approved by the Senate, is vastly different. The difference is not just in terms of the amount of benefits proposed, but also in relation to the potential impact on existing employer policies that aim to "top up" current benefits paid at the federal minimum wage.
We take a quick look at the main differences in the policies in the table below.
Click here to view table
The Cost for Employers
This proposed scheme will be funded by the Commonwealth. However, the Coalition has announced that it will fund its scheme through big business, introducing a 1.5% levy on taxable company incomes over $5 million of Australian companies.
A big question that does crop up is in relation to the fate of existing paid parental leave schemes provided by employers, separate to statutory entitlements. Labor was clear on this point - existing parental leave benefits in industrial instruments must be satisfied in addition to statutory benefits. The Coalition's policy is unclear as to whether employees will still be able to seek the financial support of both employer and Government, where available.
Of course, the passage of this radical new policy into law will depend on the views of what may yet turn out to be a hostile Senate: the fate of the next frontier in paid parental leave may ultimately rest with an ex-footballer, a motor enthusiast and a sports fan. The lady lawyers of the north shore will be waiting with bated breath…