Paid parental leave gap hurts farmers

Paid parental leave gap hurts farmers


Opinion
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When you talk to and about working women in the bush, it is difficult to do so without acknowledging that in a huge number of cases, women, along with their partners, form a dynamic business unit.

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In Annette Turner's travels across the state, the perception that government policies are not structured to assist farming families comes through clearly.

In Annette Turner's travels across the state, the perception that government policies are not structured to assist farming families comes through clearly.

When you talk to and about working women in the bush, it is difficult to do so without acknowledging that in a huge number of cases, women, along with their partners, form a dynamic business unit.

Often these business units are in the form of a farming enterprise or in the form of some other small business in a regional town.

Also, add to these people the large numbers of innovative women, who in many cases on their own, have turned their hand to setting up and running truly inspirational businesses from remote locations and you start to see a pattern of ingenuity, creativity and a spirit of entrepreneurship that thrives in country areas. 

In my travels and discussion with these families across the state, the perception that government policies are not necessarily structured to assist them as much as city families comes through clearly.

Of late, the issue of paid parental leave is the latest hobby horse the federal government cannot seem to get right.

Every time it tinkers with it in one area, there are negative consequences that show up in others. It beggars belief that in 2016, in a country such as Australia, we haven’t managed to work this out yet.

The current round of legislative fiddling is focused on preventing new parents from supposed “double dipping”. That is, in a situation where an employer may provide paid parental leave, the government doesn’t want to have to.

Not much of an incentive for employers to keep up with their current schemes as a form of differentiation in the workplace is it?

The current debate centres around just exactly how much the government will “top up” those that are accused of “double dipping”.

Most families working and living in regional areas could only dream of being in a situation where they could “double dip”.

The issue for them with the current scheme is there are aspects of the eligibility criteria which are not structured in a way to take into account the varied and large peaks and troughs characteristic of farm incomes.

The eligibility for paid parental leave is determined on your adjusted taxable income in just one financial year before the birth. In farming cases, this could be a negative figure, or, in a good year, it could mean you are over the threshold and therefore don’t meet the criteria.

This current round of deliberations presents an opportunity to get this issue right, but we haven’t seen anyone yet raise this as an issue.

It is interesting to note, however, at the time of writing, there appears to be a propensity for some senators who say they represent regional areas to cross the floor on gun importation issues in federal parliament last night.

Apparently that must be higher order priority instead of working on government policies that are tailored to suit the special needs of regional, rural and remote areas.  

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