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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 3622


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) (11:47 AM) —The government does not support these amendments. The Productivity Commission recommended that the eligibility for paid parental leave be more generous than eligibility for unpaid leave under the National Employment Standards. The government accepts that recommendation. This enables more working women to access the scheme, including women who work in casual, seasonal and contract employment, as well as self-employed women. The scheme allows women who have recently changed jobs to also receive parental leave pay.

The National Employment Standards were the subject of extensive consultation prior to being finalised. They have only been in operation since 1 January this year. Most employees eligible for parental leave pay will be eligible for unpaid parental leave under the standards. The government does not believe that it is appropriate to expand them at this time and require employers to provide unpaid leave and a return to work guarantee in the absence of a longer term relationship between the employer and the employee. You are trying to meld in these amendments two different frameworks, which, as the senator admitted, is a little complex and a little difficult. We do not think that it is appropriate to expand the employment standards at this time to put that extra requirement on employers to provide unpaid leave and a return to work guarantee in the absence of that long-term relationship which is at the core of the PPL scheme.

I note also that these amendments do not propose to provide all people eligible for paid parental leave with an unpaid leave entitlement and a return to work guarantee, only those with three months continuous service. Effectively, it is just drawing the line in a different spot. Senator Collins also raises with me that this would see the final employer of someone who had a series of employers over a period of time being the one who would have to guarantee the job, even though the person might have had quite a different set of employment relationships with a number of employers.

The government do not support these amendments. I take the point that the senator is trying to make, but we think that this is not a sensible way to proceed at this stage. We have only just put the National Employment Standards in place. It would put an extra burden on employers and we do not think that the complication in the attempt to marry the two different frameworks that apply is a sensible thing to do.