Thursday, September 13, 2012

Australia's Paid Parental Leave scheme is flawed

I was having a discussion with a group of people about Australia’s paid parental leave scheme, and we noticed that it is biased against families where the birth mother earns more than her partner. As someone who could potentially end up in this position in the future (depending on the timing of things and whatnot), I find this rather concerning.

The government webpage ( says “If you are the birth mother of a newborn child or the initial primary carer of an adopted child, you must lodge the claim for Parental Leave Pay .... if you wish to return to work early, transfer some or all of your unused Parental Leave Pay …. The person to whom you transfer Parental Leave Pay must lodge a claim for the scheme and meet the eligibility criteria. This person cannot be eligible for the scheme if the birth mother or the initial primary carer of the adopted child is not eligible.”

This means that for the partner to participate in the scheme, both members of the couple need to pass the means test.  For example, suppose there are two couples, A and B.  Couple A's mother earns $80k annually and her partner earns $155k annually.  Couple B reverses the salaries so that the mother earns $155k and her partner earns $80k.  Couple A will be able to participate in the scheme, but couple B will not, despite the fact that the two couples have the same income.

I realise that it might be a rare thing these days for a couple to be in a situation where the mother earns more than her partner and the partner wants to be the initial primary caregiver of their child. But, just because it is a rare situation doesn't mean it is all right for the scheme to discriminate against those people. Since the scheme was, in part, implemented to encourage women to stay in the workforce, I find it surprising that it can penalise mothers who earn more than their partners.

In light of this, I recently lodged  a complaint with the Department of Human Services. The woman I spoke to said she saw the hole in the system, and that the way these things get fixed is for people to lodge more complaints.

Please help get this fixed! You can lodge a complaint of your own here:
(phone number is 1800 132 0468 - select the option for centrelink)