Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Community Affairs Legislation Committee

BRISKEY, Ms Jo, Executive Director, The Parenthood

HAMILTON, Dr Myra, Member, Work and Family Policy Roundtable, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales


CHAIR: I will confirm, as I have with previous witnesses, that you have received information on parliamentary privilege?

Ms Briskey : Yes.

Dr Hamilton : Yes.

CHAIR: We have your submissions; I will invite you both to make an opening statement, then we will go to questions.

Dr Hamilton : Thank you for the invitation to appear as a witness at this hearing. I am here representing the Work and Family Policy Roundtable, which is a network of 35 academics Australia wide who do work on how policies can improve the work-life interface. The members of the Roundtable take a particular interest in paid parental leave because it is one of the hallmark policies that, if done right, has the potential to have a large impact on how families manage the work-life interface and on outcomes for health and wellbeing, workforce participation and gender equality—all of which are necessary for a healthy and prosperous Australia. On the other hand, a poorly designed PPL scheme is a missed opportunity, we think, for our nation.

If we are committed to achieving good outcomes in the areas of maternal and child health and development, female workforce participation and a gender-equal society contributing to national productivity, we need to be looking at ways to increase the generosity of the PPL scheme. According to the international evidence, as I am sure you would have heard many times, at least 26 weeks paid parental leave has the best outcomes, especially if it is coupled with measures to encourage men to participate in child care. Indeed, much research suggests that a period of longer than 26 weeks is even better, and countries with the best outcomes for female workforce participation and gender equality—such as Sweden, Iceland and Denmark—have PPL periods of considerably longer than 26 weeks.

Not only do many of our OECD counterparts have much stronger schemes than ours, but they continue to improve them by increasing the generosity, the coverage or the flexibility of their schemes. Australia's existing scheme is a good foundation. Our aim should be to try and get as many women as possible reaching that 26 weeks, but we think this proposal sets us on a trail backwards rather than forwards. It actually takes many women further away from 26 weeks, and also unpicks the principles underpinning the PPL scheme. This will damage the longer-term prospects of Australia building on the scheme we have to move forwards in the way that most of our OECD counterparts are.

The proposed policy changes will mean that fewer women will have access to more than 18 weeks, and the tens of thousands of women each year who are no longer able to combine the government and employer schemes will now be faced with two options, as we set out in our submission, both of which are likely to create worse outcomes. Some will return to work earlier, which is likely to adversely impact on mothers' mental and physical health; reduce breastfeeding rates and the associated lifelong benefits for infant health; reduce the time they have at home with their new baby and the associated benefits for child health and development; and place pressure on other sources of child care to care for their small infants, such as grandparents and the formal childcare sector. Some will stay on unpaid leave, which is likely to place more families under financial stress, limit the financial autonomy of more women and reduce the likelihood that some women will return to work at all.

On top of these costs for families, there are likely flow-on costs and policy implications that need to be considered. For example, impacts on maternal and infant health and wellbeing may create greater costs elsewhere such as in health and education systems; greater demand for care of very young infants may create more pressure on the formal childcare system, as we heard in the previous session; greater demand for childcare subsidies or more pressure on grandparents, with implications for grandparents' own workforce participation and retirement incomes. Cuts to PPL aimed at reducing the cost to government may, therefore, increase costs to government elsewhere in the short and longer term. PPL should not be viewed as a cost to governments that must be curtailed; we think it should be viewed as a investment with big pay-offs for the nation's future productivity, health and wellbeing.

Ms Briskey : Thank you chair and committee members for affording The Parenthood the opportunity to come before you today. With a national membership of over 58,000 parents, The Parenthood is Australia's leading parent advocacy and campaigning organisation. We have several thousand parents who we know will be directly affected by the proposed changes outlined in the bill—in fact, I am one of those parents. If this bill is to pass, I will lose the opportunity to spend at least 10 additional weeks with my new baby, who is due in April this year.

Whilst my husband and I are very fortunate to both be in professional roles and employment, we, like thousands of families, depend on the financial support provided by the government's PPL system to be able to afford more me more time to be at home with our newborn. Without access to the government's leave, our family could not afford for me to be off work any longer than I had paid leave for; I would absolutely need to go back to work at least 10 weeks earlier than I would otherwise plan to if the proposed changes go ahead. Ten additional weeks of PPL means 10 more weeks my little girl will get to have with her mum. For her, it means 10 more weeks at home rather than needing to be in a childcare centre. It means 10 more weeks I can continue to breastfeed a bit more easily, before I need to pump and bottle feed. It means 10 more weeks I have to recover from the C-section I have to have. It means 10 more weeks I am less stressed and more present for both my new daughter and her three-year-old sister.

Whilst I appreciate the proposed changes are essentially about saving money and helping the budget repair for the government, these changes mean significantly more than that for my family and for thousands of other families across Australia. For us, but most importantly for our newborns, this is all about time—how much time we can afford to be there in those first precious months of our newborn's life. This is also about working mums—and dads, but predominantly mums—being able to give their kids the very best start in life and to continue to contribute and to give back to their communities through the work that they do. This is recognising the inherent value to government, to business and to our nation's prosperity. Taking time out of the paid workforce to care for a child is part of the usual course of life and work for both parents, promoting equality between men and women and the balance between work and family life.

I wanted to acknowledge that a Parenthood member, Lynne, had hoped to be here with me today, but, unfortunately, health prevented her from being here. Lynne, like approximately half of those parents who access the government's PPL system, does not have employer paid leave that she can use to extend beyond the 18 weeks of government leave. Lynne was due to benefit from the proposed compromise—to use savings from limiting PPL for those who have employer leave to increase the number of weeks from 18 to 20. However, Lynne strongly believes that a gain in PPL for mums like her is not worth it if it means other mums miss out. Lynne was adamant that she share with you her experiences and her thoughts to reinforce how important it is that we seek to improve the PPL system for all parents, so I will seek to get a copy of her personal statement to the committee as soon as possible.

Both Lynne and I, together with over 1,000 parents who added their names to our written submission, with 93 per cent of the 1,300 parents who completed our national survey and who strongly disagree with the government's proposed changes, and with over 12,000 Parenthood members from across Australia who have been campaigning with us to see the proposed cuts to PPL dropped, urge you to reject this bill and recommend to the government that they do the same. We urge you to do so as soon as possible, to put an end to the continued chaos, confusion and anxiety that this policy position is continuing to cause both to many currently pregnant women and to those seeking to be pregnant soon.

Senators, we also understand that you have only just been provided with a copy of our written submission and so may not have had the opportunity to extensively review it. I would just like to put on record Parenthood's disappointment that our submission was not made available to you until just recently. We appreciate the committee secretariat had concerns regarding the personal information of those who signed their names to our submission; however, those parents expressly wished for it to be publicly known that the position and the evidence provided in our submission is also their position and their evidence. I believe it is their democratic right for their voices be heard and not to be silenced by the removal of their names or where they are from.

Returning to our submission, there are a couple of key points I wish to highlight. (1) Parents firmly reject the government's proposed changes. Our survey results revealed 93 per cent not just disagreed but strongly disagreed with the proposal to take time away from parents who currently receive some other paid leave from their employer. This also included the majority of parents who do not have access to employer paid leave.

(2) Most of those directly affected are not well-paid senior public servants or those high up in the corporate sector; the majority of women are working across a variety of different sectors and industries, from retail, hospitality, health care, education and professional services. Our results revealed that the majority of those set to lose anywhere between $4.000 and $12,000 in paid parental leave have individual incomes significantly less than $87,000 and household incomes of less than $150,000. These are average working mums and families. If they lose $4,000 to $12,000 in PPL, they lose the ability to afford the time that they want to spend with their newborns.

(3) Stripping back Australia's Paid Parental Leave scheme is a massive step backwards, and we have already heard many contribute to that. It takes us backwards in terms of workforce participation, infant health and wellbeing, and the long-term productivity and prosperity of our nation. We note that the Workplace Gender Equality Agency raised concerns in their submission about the effects that it will have on workforce participation; that employers will have less incentive to provide PPL to their employees. We saw the WA chamber of commerce come out recently expecting that businesses would likely drop their PPL schemes if it provided no benefit to their employees. We also note that the Workplace Gender Equality Agency sought feedback from employers and found that they expected the changes would negatively affect the health, wellbeing and financial security of their employees, and we also saw this reflected in our survey. The reality is, Australia's Paid Parental Leave scheme is the least generous in the developed world. We cannot afford to go backwards. We need to be looking to improve it—and the scheme was designed to be improved upon. It was designed to be a minimum workplace entitlement that could be improved over time, through additional employer contributions and legislative reform that would see us getting closer to the World Health Organization recommendation of 26 weeks. We note suggestions to improve government PPL for those without employer leave, to increase it from 18 to 20 weeks—but this is not an improvement if it relies on dozens of other parents losing significantly more than two weeks in order to pay for it. Eighty-one per cent of those we surveyed strongly disagreed with the proposal to limit access, even to increase the number of weeks available, including the vast majority of those who would actually benefit from the additional two weeks—those who do not have employer leave.

We also strongly argue against any suggestion to change the eligibility requirements to access the government's PPL. A move to means test on household income would be a major step away from the original design and stated purpose of PPL as a workplace entitlement. If the eligibility for the government's PPL system moves from what the individual taking the leave earns to what the joint income is for a household, it ceases to be a work-related payment that promotes increased economic productivity, and would instead become an additional social welfare payment. Given paid parental leave is taken predominantly by women, it would effectively mean a woman's access to paid parental leave would be dependent on her husband or partner's income. So, whilst Australia's paid parental leave system in its current form needs significant improvement, 87 per cent of the parents we surveyed strongly agreed that our system should remain as it is currently designed, a co-contribution of government and employer to the paid parental leave available to new parents.

So, Senators, we ask that you join with Aussie mums and dads to help us protect the precious time our newborns get to have with their parents during those first precious months of life. As women, we ask you to help promote our continued quest for greater workplace gender equality.

CHAIR: Thank you both very much for your opening statements. The committee has received a copy of your submission and we have been able to digest it. It is just that it was only published publicly this morning, given the issues around the personal details. I just wanted to clarify that.

Senator WATT: Thank you both for coming along today and, Ms Briskey, good luck with your forthcoming pregnancy. We have read your submission so I will not harp on too much about the things that you have said there.

Ms Briskey, I think it was your submission that talked about the potential for the savings the government expects to generate here being illusory, particularly because of the risk of extra childcare rebates and other payments. Could you elaborate on what potential impacts this proposal might have on childcare use and costs to government?

Ms Briskey : Yes, absolutely. We recommend that committee members look at and get some more detailed modelling around the potential impacts. Effectively, this is about potentially forcing many more parents to go back to work sooner than they would otherwise have planned, and therefore seeking to find child care sooner than they had planned. This is for infants. The provision of care for infants is actually significantly more costly for government and for parents than it is for older children. Obviously it costs a little bit more to look after an infant than it does an older child. We would see a significant impact. Effectively, you have families starting out in the child-care sector sooner and therefore for longer and therefore requiring greater subsidy payments from the government in order to pay for that. And to be honest, there is also the broader impact of even trying to find the child-care place for a baby. As any parent would know it is near impossible, especially when you are in an inner city area, and it would cause significant stress on an already stretched system if we are seeing a greater number of families trying to find child care for their newborns.

Senator WATT: It is quite possible then, assuming these changes do lead to earlier return to work among women—and we have heard from the witnesses consistently this morning that is likely to be the case—that that would expose government to higher costs and obviously the families, themselves, in additional child-care payments.

Ms Briskey : Yes.

Senator WATT: Dr Hamilton, one of the points that you raised in your submission that others have not raised is that in addition to the potential consequences this would have for women's workforce participation, there is a risk of a knock-on effect for grandparents' workforce participation. Could you please elaborate a bit on that for us?

Dr Hamilton : Many Australian families have a preference for grandparent child care when their children are under the age of 12 months because they do not feel comfortable putting their younger infants into formal child care and this can have a considerable impact on the labour market participation of grandparents. In a project that we conducted about 18 months ago, we talked to and surveyed grandparents around Australia who are providing regular child care for their grandchildren and asked them about the impact that it had on their labour market participation and retirement decisions. We found that the impact was quite considerable: one in three of the grandparents in our survey said that providing regular child care for their grandchild had changed the timing or expected timing of their retirement; one in three said that it had a negative impact on their incomes or retirement incomes; and the impact on those who chose to continue balancing work and child care was quite significant as well. We found that 70 per cent had changed the shifts they worked, more than half had reduced their working hours and one in five had even changed their job to accommodate their caring responsibilities. So we think that if more parents were calling on grandparents to provide regular child care for their young children, then this is likely to have a knock-on effect on more grandparents' work and retirement decisions.

Senator WATT: You have probably seen over the last few months that there has been some media reporting of possible compromises that might be reached between the government and crossbench senators to get this bill through. I would be interested in getting your views on some of those proposals. The first is—and I think I will get this right—that in return for passing these changes and reducing government provided PPL for people with employer provided PPL, there has been a suggestion that the 18 weeks provided by the government might be lifted to 20. I cannot remember if that is for all women or just for low-paid women. Could you give the committee your views on either the impacts on women, the impacts on the economy, workforce participation, health, any impacts at all, if that proposal were to go ahead?

Ms Briskey : We understand, and we included this in our submission, that the proposal would be effectively increasing 18 to 20 weeks for those who do not have any access to employer leave. Whilst we are always keen to see more time available to parents and looking to improve the system, this compromised position, as you said, is not really an improvement because it still relies on close to 80,000 parents of losing some level of paid leave, some significantly more than two weeks. Of the parents we surveyed, about eight per cent of those would actually lose the entire 18 weeks from the government. That is a significant price to pay for just two weeks for others.

Also, we want to make the point, and we are really keen to stress the point, about how important it is that we recognise that both government and employers have a responsibility to contribute to the paid leave taken by mums and dads. The sense that we are returning only for the government's PPL system to be essentially a safety net or only available to those who do not have access to employer leave undermines or provides a disincentive for employers to continue to look at different ways to increase their contributions to the paid leave of their employees.

We noted prior to this system coming in that 30 per cent of Australia's employers provided some level of paid leave to their employees. Since the system was introduced, that is now up to just over 50 per cent of Australia's employers who provide some level of paid leave to their employees, and that is exactly what this system was designed to do: it was designed to be a balance between government and employers providing leave and encouraging more and more employers to provide some level—or make a start, at least; one or two weeks. I just think there is a detrimental effect: less incentive for more employers to continue to do that. For only two weeks, you have got thousands of other families losing significant time in order to pay for it. It continues to take us backwards. It is not a forward step.

Dr Hamilton : If I could just build on what Jo said, the way I look at it is what are we trying to achieve with this scheme? If all of the international evidence is saying that 26 weeks is what is required to achieve these positive outcomes. I should say Australia lags behind the rest of the OECD but, in a way, that gives us an advantage because we have got all of this evidence that we can look at and rely on in building our own scheme and making it a robust scheme that can have the best possible outcomes. All of that evidence is pointing to 26 weeks and if our objective is to move all women closer to 26 weeks so that we can achieve these positive outcomes, then, while it is certainly welcome that some women would move from 18 to 20 weeks, if it is to the detriment of a whole group of other women who will be moving a lot further away from 26 weeks than they currently are, we think it is not worth the gain for some women.

The other thing I could say is that the idea of increasing it from 18 to 20 weeks for some women still moves towards this idea, as Jo mentioned, of the scheme being a safety net. It is not a safety net: it is a gender equality measure. It is designed to recognise that women experience a disadvantage because they are women and to reduce that disadvantage to workforce participation, in incomes and retirement incomes throughout their lives. Because some higher-income women are less disadvantaged than lower-income women, it does not mean that they aren't still disadvantaged. It would be like saying to a higher-income woman, 'You're experiencing a big disadvantage compared with men, but because you're doing better than women who are struggling, we'll take your entitlement away.'

Senator WATT: So, in essence, if that compromise were to go through, you would get all the downside in the health effects on women and children, the workforce participation impacts, the economic impacts, et cetera, et cetera, for a welcome but small increase for a certain section of the population?

Dr Hamilton : Yes.

Senator WATT: Ms Briskey, I think I saw in your submission that the surveys you have done indicate that even women who would 'benefit' from that compromise do not see it as a good idea?

Ms Briskey : No, and I guess in a sense of solidarity between working women, they do not want to see. Lyn, who unfortunately could not be here today, is one of those women. She was adamant that she did not want to see herself and working mums like her receive additional time if it meant that a whole group of other women lose out in order to pay for it. It is essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is not fair, and it is not fair for those women who have made compromises in the negotiations that they make with their employer around potentially reduced salaries in order to have more generous paid parental leave schemes. Women have negotiated over some periods of time and have lost out in some areas in order to gain more paid parental leave.

We have also had a number of women say to us that they have specifically taken lower-paid jobs because of the more generous paid parental leave schemes that those employers have. They have made those conscious decisions, and now they are potentially being faced with punishment for making those decisions. Women across the board—who are in the age group of the middle of their careers but who are starting their families or extending their families—do not want to see a backwards step with regard to the leave that is available and how the system is designed as it is currently designed.

Dr Hamilton : If we take the example of Lyn, she may benefit by two weeks in the short term but she may personally wind-up worse off in the longer term if the integrity of the government scheme is challenged. Employers are facing disincentives to improve their own schemes, and we are creating a situation where it becomes more difficult for us to improve the generosity of our government scheme, so, while Lyn and others like her may experience a benefit of two weeks in the short term, in the longer term there might be structural changes to the provision of PPL in Australia that might have an impact on her personal financial wellbeing and workforce prospects.

Senator WATT: My question relates to one of the other possible compromises that we have seen reported in the media, and that concerns how eligibility for the scheme would be determined. As I understand it, the eligibility under the government's proposal is set at women earning $150,000 a year, I presume in the 12 months prior to their pregnancy, and anyone earning more than that would not be eligible for the government scheme and is not currently. One possible compromise is to alter the eligibility so, rather than it being determined on the basis of a woman's income, it could be determined on the basis of a household's income. I cannot remember whether there has been a dollar figure attached to that. Have either of you got anything to say about that idea, about shifting from eligibility being determined by a woman's personal income to a household's income?

Ms Briskey : We see that as effectively entrenching paid parental leave as another social welfare payment. In our minds, it almost becomes another form of the Baby Bonus, in terms of a family essentially getting a payment on the birth of their child. It completely steps away from paid parental leave being a workplace entitlement. If it is no longer based on the income of the individual who is taking the leave and instead is based on household income, we would be very concerned because, as I said, it would entrench paid parental leave as a social welfare payment instead of a productivity payment. Again, it would limit the opportunity for employers to continue to contribute, for more employers to come on board to continue to contribute and it places an increasing burden on government to continue it as a social welfare payment. We would be very concerned because, whilst it is predominantly women who access paid parental leave, it would essentially mean that their husband or partner's income would be taken into account and it would disregard the point that they are the ones taking time out of their work to look after a child. It is important they do that; we want parents to be able to do that, and we want to support parents to be able to do that. It works for business; it works for government; it works for our families. We need to see it remain as a fundamental productivity and economic measure, not a social welfare measure.

Dr Hamilton : I would support Jo's comments on that. We view it as a workplace entitlement, and means testing it on household income would mean that a woman's entitlement to PPL and all the benefits that come with it would be dependent on the income of her partner. Australia's industrial relations system was built on this idea of a male breadwinner model with women relegated to secondary earners. We have come so far to try to overcome that that I think it is important that we treat the woman's income, in this case, as her individual income in her own right.

Senator WATT: One of the submissions dealt with this issue and said that there is a lot of research now that indicates that essentially removing a woman's income from the household equation, or, in this case, broadening it out to include the household, reduces her discretionary spending power and the power relationship.

Ms Briskey : Yes, it takes away her financial independence.

Senator WATT: Yes, that is what I meant.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: I would like first to go to the issue of enterprise agreements that have already been established. Ms Briskey, you made the comments during your evidence just now that some women would have perhaps forgone certain things in exchange for a greater amount of PPL built into their agreements. I suppose one of those things that they might have forgone was an hourly rate, so they may have agreed to a slightly lower hourly rate in exchange for more PPL. How difficult do you think it would be for a worker to renegotiate their EBA when it comes time for that to try to claw back some of those concessions that they made in exchange for more PPL?

Ms Briskey : I would imagine it would be quite difficult. Again, it goes back to employers losing the incentive for them to provide any additional paid parental leave for their employees. Whether or not there will be employers who look to provide that sort of benefit in other ways so that their employees can continue to benefit from both, there might be some and we understand that that is a potential impact—again, having an effect on the overall budget savings that the government expects to make out of this. I would expect that it would be very difficult for parents and employees to be able to claw back what they have lost. As I also mentioned, we have had a number of parents say they have specifically chosen a particular employer and a particular industry to work in because of paid parental leave over another form of employment that provided higher rates of pay. They cannot necessarily just move jobs quickly like that in order to try to recuperate any lost income. In a sense, it would be quite difficult; yes, I would expect so.

Dr Hamilton : I would add that the proposal provides employers with fewer opportunities to promote themselves as employer of choice in the ways that they have been cultivating over many years. As Professor Marian Baird said in the previous session, I guess this is one of the great unknowns about how employers are going to respond and whether they are going to find new ways to promote themselves as employers of choice for women and what that will mean for women.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: On that point that there is a danger employers may wind back some of the PPL schemes that they have in place at the moment, have you given any thought to whether there could be any incentives or even penalties attached to employers who do decide to wind back their PPL scheme as a result of the government's proposal?

Ms Briskey : You mean they would—

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: If the bill passes, could we somehow incentivise employers to maintain their current level or even increase it, or on the other hand even penalise them if they did decide to wind back their schemes?

Ms Briskey : I would imagine there would be a backlash from employers if that was the case. When the scheme was originally designed by the Productivity Commission, it was welcomed by employers in terms of the full burden not being on them and the full burden not being on the government in order to provide paid leave for parents. As I said, this move to limit access to the government scheme to those who have employer paid parental leave takes away that joint responsibility between government and employers. This is the way to incentivise more employers to take on a contribution. They know it is not solely on them, they know that their employees can also use the government's leave to extend the time, they can build upon their level of contribution for employees and they can compete on being an employer of choice, and we are seeing that. We are seeing organisations continue to find new ways to attract and retain talented parents—in particular, women. They want and need to have these women stay with them. It costs them significant amounts of money if they lose these women, if they do not come back to work for them, so they recognise the value in that. And it is an incentive for them to know that it is just not them, that their employees can use the government's leave to extend the time that they have. I cannot imagine a different way of incentivising it. I definitely imagine there would be a backlash on penalties being in place.

Dr Hamilton : I feel that we have come a long way with employers, that we have brought them along with us, and a lot of employers now understand not only that providing employer funded PPL to their employees is important to their employees but that there is a strong business case for it. I do feel like there is a lot of goodwill in the employer and business community about employer funded PPL. It is important to protect that goodwill, I think. Some employers may already feel penalised with the proposal as it stands, because it compromises their ability to be an employer of choice, as I mentioned, in the ways that they have become accustomed. So they may feel doubly penalised. Also, even if employers do continue their existing schemes beyond the cessation of their respective EBAs, a lot of women will still be worse off under the proposal than before.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: We had some discussion this morning about the importance of an employer and an employee maintaining their relationship during pregnancy and after childbirth. There was concern from the previous panel that removing the paymaster role from the employer and placing it with the department could jeopardise that relationship. Did either of you have any comments on the proposed changes to the paymaster role?

Ms Briskey : My understanding is that it was designed so that the payments continued to come from the employer, so there was a constant connection between the employer and the employee. For example, when I took paid parental leave with my previous employer for my first child, nothing changed, in that I continued to receive my entitlements from my employer. The government paid my employer and the employer paid me. It remains, as if nothing had changed. This was still very much about my employment with my employer. This was an entitlement—my leave—that I was taking. I think if you remove that—again, it goes back to applying through Centrelink to receive the payments—it reinforces this idea that this is some level of welfare payment, and it breaks that connection between an employee and their employer and the recognition that this is simply about the fact that I have to take time away from work in order to look after a child. My understanding—I heard Professor Baird talk about this as well—is that employers have found that there has been no huge problem with how this works. As the employee, I let Centrelink know that I am taking this leave and provide those details. I provide the details of my employer to them and Centrelink make the employment connection, and that is how it is done. It is not too overly complicated and it works well. I would hate to see any move that would see this jeopardising the view and the perception and the experience, for both employers and employees, of this being a workplace entitlement.

Dr Hamilton : Yes, I agree that perception is important, and it is important to the perception of both the employer and the employee that it is a payment made by the employer. I think the employer paymaster role is important in cultivating this idea that employers are important players in this space, and it creates the conditions for a complementary role for employers and government in the provision of paid parental leave to employees so the conditions are there for employers to find ways to build on what the government is providing at this stage. To remove the paymaster role would create added complexity and barriers for employers in that space.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: In your submission, on page 9, you point to some research that suggests paid parental leave is much more likely than unpaid parental leave to result in re-entry into work. Can you elaborate on how that works?

Dr Hamilton : The international research tends to suggest that paid parental leave of an adequate length is much more likely to result in women returning to work than unpaid parental leave. Women who are on unpaid parental leave are more likely to drop out of the labour market and to feel a lower sense of attachment to the workforce while they are out of work bearing and rearing a small child than if they are on paid parental leave. Consistently the international studies have shown that paid parental leave has much better outcomes when it comes to re-entry into work.

Senator KAKOSCHKE-MOORE: Thank you. That is all from me.

CHAIR: I have just one brief question. Ms Briskey, I want to go back to the statistics you mentioned about the level of employers who provide paid parental leave, which I thought was quite heartening. I think you said 30 per cent to 50 per cent have some level of paid parental leave, is that right?

Ms Briskey : Yes.

CHAIR: Do you have any data or is there any research that outlines how much a part of the decision-making process that is for a woman, a working mother, when it comes to choosing a job? I guess it is probably more relevant to places like Melbourne or Sydney where there are greater choices of employment, as opposed to Darwin or Hobart. Is there any research out there that indicates that this is something that will have a major impact on a decision that a woman may make about choosing an employer: an employer is paying X with a certain amount of paid parental leave versus this employer who is maybe paying more, or the same amount, but does not have paid parental leave? Is it a big factor? Is there data to support that?

Ms Briskey : To be honest, I would probably need to find the data, if it does exist. I think it is more anecdotal, and what we hear from the parents that we engage with is that they are making choices. Even those first entering the workforce, those building their careers, are making judgements around the choice of employer. That is why you are seeing more and more organisations looking at paid parental leave and other family friendly initiatives as a way to recruit and retain really talented women. I cannot give you the research, but we are seeing the trend increase. We are seeing major organisations—the big banks, the big telco companies—are all coming out with fantastic paid parental leave schemes because they recognise that they need to attract and retain the talent that they are looking for, and it is part of the decision-making of those women who are currently not only in the middle of either beginning or extending their families but right at the beginning. When people are leaving, going from study to employment, they are making that conscious decision, and we are starting to seeing not only women but also men. I note that the previous panel spoke about the men of upcoming generations saying, 'We want to take a more active role in our families' lives.' They too are looking at their choice of employment, so it is definitely a huge incentive for employers to be able to provide that. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency rate paid parental leave significantly in terms of when they are looking at employer of choice in the employer of choice awards that they provide. If an employer does not provide paid parental leave they essentially miss out.

CHAIR: They do not rate.

Ms Briskey : Yes, they do not rate. So it just goes to show how important it is.

CHAIR: But you are saying that, anecdotally, the trends suggest that there is—

Ms Briskey : Yes, that is exactly right.

CHAIR: quite a degree of influence over decision-making processes around what job you might take or career path you might take—

Ms Briskey : Yes, that is right.

CHAIR: and with which particular employer, but no hard data at this point. If you do find any, will you please provide it to the committee. I am always interested in that sort of thing.

Ms Briskey : Yes, absolutely.

CHAIR: I have no further questions. Dr Hamilton and Ms Briskey, thank you very much for your presentations today. The committee will take a short break.

Proceedings suspended from 10:35 to 10:46