Parent leave left up in air

Family benefits

By Letitia Rowlands

Only 786 businesses across Australia had registered for the Government’s paid parental leave scheme just three weeks before it starts.

Business groups said many employers — especially small businesses — were confused about their role in adminstering a scheme they labelled as unnecessary red tape.

Parents of babies born on or after January 1 are eligible for the scheme, which pays the primary carer the minimum wage of $570 a week for 18 weeks if they meet work and income requirements.

Nationally, 4091 people already have applied, with 1283 from NSW.

It will be funded by the Government but administered by employers, which business groups said was causing confusion and anger.

Council of Small Businesses Australia chief executive Peter Strong said some employers were not aware of the scheme, let alone of the role they had to play.

“It makes us very angry,” Mr Strong said. “It’s confusing, particularly for small business owners who are too busy working to be worrying about this.

“They expect small businesses to administer this like big companies which have a pay master.

“There is no reason the payment could not be made directly from government.”

Employers must register for the scheme but only 786 businesses across the country have so far taken that step.

If a woman’s employer has not registered and she is entitled to the payment, the Government will administer the payment until July 1.

It will then become an employer’s responsibility and the Government will contact the business about registering if they have not done so.

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick agreed there was some confusion but believed employers should be the ones to administer the payment.

“As with any huge change in public policy, there is some level of confusion,” she said.

There was also confusion among many expectant mothers unsure whether they should claim the Paid Parental Leave, which is taxed, or the Baby Bonus, which is not.

“There will be some women who will opt to go for the baby bonus,” she said.

What it means:

* The national Paid Parental Leave scheme starts on January 1

* It provides 18 weeks pay at the $570 minimum wage

* Primary carer must be in paid work for at least 10 months before the birth

* Restricted to those who earned less than $150,000

Article from The Daily Telegraph, December 13, 2010.

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