Thursday, March 10, 2011

Paid Parental Leave Irritation

I just had to blog about this because I'm mildly irritated.

Okay, so brief background. Last year, having not intended to have another baby for at least a year, I took the brave decision to leave my job of almost 7 years at the university. Basically, I had an offer of part-time work for an organisation that did not suck the life force from my body on entering the room. Everything about this new place and the people in it told me it was the right thing to do. There were probably only 3 things holding me back:
  1. Familiarity, better the devil you know, however you want to put it.
  2. Security and stability of a large-scale public organisation.
  3. The fantastic maternity benefits of 6 months full pay over the course of 12 months.
Well, as you all know I took the leap and I have had no regrets. As I said to Toby at the time, I couldn't put a baby that didn't yet exist, and for all we knew might never exist, before the one I already had. It was more important to me that I remove myself from the stressful environment I was in, find a vocation I truly enjoyed and maximise my time with my little girl.

Two months later I was pregnant. Okay so I always knew it was likely to happen at some stage and despite the loss of oodles of dollars in maternity pay I still have no regrets.

On 1st January 2011 the Australian Government introduced Paid Parental Leave. This is basically the equivalent of 18 weeks pay at the minimum wage. To qualify you have to have worked 330 hours over 10 out of the 13 months prior to the child's birth. This is basically just over 1 day a week.

So when discussing maternity leave, and in particular the fact that I don't get paid leave where I work now, people point out how good it is that I am eligible for the government's scheme. Don't get me wrong, it's great. EXCEPT that I am no longer eligible for the Baby Bonus. When I had Phoebe I got my employer's paid leave plus the Baby Bonus. If I didn't work then I would still be entitled to the Baby Bonus. In fact, I can choose to take the Baby Bonus instead of the Paid Parental Leave if I so desire. The government's Family Assistance website even provides a comparison calculator to help you decide which you're better off going for.

So I did that. According to the tool, which is just an estimate, we'll be a whopping $1,347.00 (approximately) better off with the Paid Parental Scheme than we would be with the Baby Bonus. And the government has made such a big deal about how great this is for families, working mothers and employers. Er... excuse me? In which world is $1,347(or £837 in real money) going to make that much difference to whether (and how long) women can afford to take leave to nurture and look after their babies? Seriously? I don't want to sound ungrateful but Ms "I can get the best job in the country if I steal it from a very nice man" Gillard, stop dressing this up to be something it isn't.

And that's all.

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