(First published in Workforce 15/08/2014, written by David Marin-Guzman)
The Federal Government has said it believes it is unfair and “inappropriate” that workers can top up the Commonwealth’s paid parental leave (PPL) entitlements by accessing their own negotiated schemes. But while the govt plans to prevent public sector workers from “double dipping” under its proposed 26-week PPL scheme, it declined to do the same for private sector workers, saying that was a matter between employers and their employees.
A spokesperson for Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews told Workforce Daily that “as an employer, the Govt believes that C’wealth employees should receive the parental leave standard applying to private sector workplaces”. “We consider double dipping to receive an amount more than the standard is not fair; as would taxpayers who ultimately pay the wages of public sector employees,” the spokesperson said.
However, the govt confirmed that under its proposed scheme private sector employees would still be able to receive any additional entitlement by their employer in “existing agreements”. “What happens in private sector workplaces is a matter for private sector employers and their employees,” Andrews’ spokesperson said. “They are accountable to the owner or shareholders of their business just as the Govt is accountable to taxpayers.” Under the Coalition’s PPL, businesses with taxable income above $5m will partially fund the govt’s scheme through a 1.5% levy.
Earlier this week, Minister for Human Services Marise Payne told The Australian C’wealth public sector workers using the current PPL scheme to supplement their in-house entitlements was “a loophole” the Coalition’s scheme would close.
However, Labor’s PPL scheme was set up so employers could offer supplementary benefits through bargaining. The aim was for employers to use their additional benefits to competitively attract and retain high-skilled workers.
Govt to block PPL schemes in bargaining
Asked how the Govt would block public sector workers from accessing negotiated PPL entitlements, the spokesperson responded that “interaction between schemes for C’wealth employees will be settled in legislation”. The spokesperson flagged the govt would address it in the current round of public sector bargaining. “The Australian Government Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy, released in March this year, notes that new agreements should not contain terms that seek to supplement the entitlement the new PPL scheme will provide,” she said. That appears to be a reference to the bargaining policy’s “Supporting Guidance Part 4” term 4.2.2. The Community Public Sector Union did not respond to Workforce questions as to whether the issue had been raised in bargaining.
During the election, the Coalition said it would give public servants a “choice” between the Coalition’s proposed PPL and the public sector’s PPL. However, experts noted the legal obstacles facing the Coalition in seeking to block “double dipping”, considering in-house entitlements are part of industrial agreements (WF18825). The Coalition’s PPL scheme has a start date in July next year. However, there appears next to no chance it would pass the Senate with all Senate cross-benchers opposed to the current scheme. Nevertheless, Minister Andrews’ spokesperson said the govt was “on track for implementation by that date”.
(First published in Workforce 15/08/2014)
Workforce is Australia’s longest-running weekly and daily industrial relations news & analysis service. Going strong since 1974, this independent news service delivers detailed news updates to IR and HR professionals nationally – straight into their inbox.
For a FREE TRIAL, click here.
For multi-user prices, click here.