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FOR – Bills — Paid Parental Leave Amendment (More Support for Working Families) Bill 2023; in Committee

David Pocock

by leave—I move amendments (1), (2) and (3) on sheet 2403 together:

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 1), omit the table item, substitute:

(2) Schedule 1, items 16 and 17, page 11 (line 2) to page 13 (line 17), omit "this Act" (wherever occurring), substitute "this Schedule".

(3) Page 14 (after line 18), at the end of the Bill, add:

Schedule 2 — Other amendments

Paid Parental Leave Act 2010

1 Section 6

Insert:

small business employer: see subsection 101(7).

2 After paragraph 101(1)(c)

Insert:

(ca) the employer is not a small business employer; and

3 Subsection 101(2)

Omit "and (c)", substitute ", (c) and (ca)".

4 At the end of section 101

Add:

Meaning of small business employer

(7) An employer is a small business employer at a particular time if the employer employs fewer than 20 employees at that time.

5 Subparagraph 207(3)(a)(i)

Omit "or (c)", substitute ", (c) or (ca)".

6 Subsection 207(3) (note 2)

Omit "and (c)", substitute ", (c) and (ca)".

7 Subparagraph 224(2)(a)(i)

Omit "or (c)", substitute ", (c) or (ca)".

8 Subsection 224(2) (note 2)

Omit "and (c)", substitute ", (c) and (ca)".

9 Application of amendments

The amendments of the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 made by this Schedule apply in relation to claims made on or after the commencement of this item.

Malarndirri McCarthy

The government opposes these amendments. The employer role, as recommended by the Productivity Commission to promote women's workplace retention and gender equality, has been a key feature of the scheme since it was established in 2011. The Productivity Commission said Paid Parental Leave arrangements will be viewed by both employers and employees as standard employment arrangements if they are similar to other employment conditions rather than a government payment from Services Australia. This normalises parental leave as a workplace entitlement, which is good for employee retention and fosters gender equitable workplaces.

The government's commitment to pay super on PPL will also help with this. The bill before parliament does not make any change to the longstanding employer role. It gives Australian families more paid parental leave than ever before, which, in turn, is good for them, good for their employer and good for the economy. The government has heard compelling evidence from women's groups, family advocates, economists and unions about how the employer role in administering PPL is important for promoting gender equality, and removing this for small business would be a backward step.

Larissa Waters

I rise on behalf of the Greens to point out that we won't be supporting this or any of the other amendments moved by Senators Pocock, Lambie and Babet. The whole point of having paid parental leave is that it is a workplace entitlement. Anything which would sever the connection between the worker who is taking parental leave and the employer destroys the whole point of a system that is designed to encourage women's workforce participation.

David Pocock

Minister, with this payment, I understand the argument about the workplace relationship in large businesses, but it doesn't stack up in small businesses. The government's own data show that the average small business—and potentially even microbusinesses, where you have a mum running a small business with a few employees—will have to spend 15 hours administering a payment that Services Australia already administers in up to 40 per cent of cases. If you haven't been at a business for 12 months, Services Australia does it directly. I get that with a large business with an HR department, it should just go through there. But we're talking about small businesses here who have good relationships with their employees. They have to because they're working with them day in and day out. Surely at that level it makes sense to have an opt-in, opt-out system.

If the issue is with how hard it is to navigate Services Australia, let's fix that. Let's fix Services Australia. Let's not put that onto small businesses who have to be some sort of go-between, when Services Australia is paying new parents directly 40 per cent of the time.

What can the government say when it comes to small businesses now facing potentially 15 hours a week on top of all their other commitments to administer a government payment? There's multipartisan support for PPL. I would love to see the government go further. But when it comes to the administration of it, this is a government payment. We should celebrate the fact that this is from the Australian people. This isn't the business coughing up: it's all of us. It's great to live in a country where we decide to do that and make that payment. So I'm a bit concerned about what it says about us that we want to try to disguise it as a business entitlement, when actually it's the Australian people saying we're going to pay for you to have real quality time with your new family. It's asking what's the government's view when it comes to small businesses and what support will there be?

Malarndirri McCarthy

Thank you, Senator Pocock. I certainly hear what you and Senator Lambie are saying in regard to the concerns that you are raising around this. We have gone through this quite considerably as a government, listening to all groups. We are firmly committed to employers having an active role in relation to PPL. We are committed to improving administrative processes for businesses, using government online services. We welcome a productive and outcomes focused discussion about ways that engage with Services Australia and how it can be made more simple and efficient for employers.

As part of our reform, the government has committed to undertake an independent and multi-year evaluation to track the impact of the changes, which will help us identify where any refinements might be needed, particularly in the areas that you highlight today. This provides an opportunity to examine the impacts of PPL on businesses and their employees.

Andrew McLachlan

The question before the committee is that amendments (1) to (3) on sheet 2403 moved together by Senator David Pocock be agreed to.

Summary

Date and time: 11:51 AM on 2024-03-18
Senator Pocock's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 28
Total number of "no" votes: 32
Total number of abstentions: 16
Related bill: Paid Parental Leave Amendment (More Support for Working Families) Bill 2023

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au