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Political Suicide and PPL: My Story

With Permission from *Karen who contacted me last week we are sharing her story. She gives us a real life insight into how the Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme has supported herself and her child *Oscar and what her worries and fears are for the future of Paid Parental Leave scheme. She believes the Federal Government are committing political suicide in cutting back Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme as announced in the 2015 Budget.

A friend tagged me in your recent Facebook post about the government’s recent budget decision to prevent employees entitled to an employer funded PPL scheme from accessing the government’s funded one in conjunction.

My personal situation is this:

While I am not currently pregnant it certainly was on the radar to start considering trying for number 2 in the next year or so.

We currently have a son, Oscar, who will be 3 in September.  I work for the government.  I have a full time permanent position but I am currently working part time (PT) on a ‘return to work following maternity leave’ arrangement.  I have extended this PT arrangement beyond the normal entitlement of 2 years (following the commencement of maternity leave) as our son has had some health and developmental challenges in relation to food intolerances, ENT issues and sensory processing issues.  My son won’t eat like other children his age and more than 50% of his diet is supplemented by a hypoallergenic formula which the government subsidises for us under the consultation of a paediatrician allergist.  Although I had all intentions of breastfeeding my son until at least 12 months of age, I was unable to due to his challenges and he was placed on this formula full time from 5-6 months.  I now run an online Facebook forum for parents of children with sensitivities, intolerances and allergies which is only 12 months old and has over 160 members globally.  Small and modest but it has made a difference to some lives.

My husband is a builder and has his own modest business.  One we are still endeavouring to make a profit from in the current climate.  I also work in his business but I do not currently draw a wage as such as we can’t afford to.

Currently we wouldn’t make much more than $100K between us.  My position alone is decently paid in a full time capacity (around $70+K) but because of my son’s needs I find I don’t have the capacity to return full time at this stage.  We are like most, have a decently sized mortgage, pay our bills, pay our loans, pay our taxes and are decent human beings that contribute to the economy and community.

This policy decision is huge and has the potential to make it quite difficult for us to be able to afford to have a second child.  Something I personally must consider soon.  I have polycystic ovaries and have suffered fertility issues for a few years now but suspect my issues went undiagnosed for some time.  *Oscar was assisted conception and a difficult pregnancy that ended with preeclampsia.  I am 32 and my GP has advised I need to consider my next pregnancy in the next few years to be safe.

I personally could not place my child into care at the age of 3 months and return to work.  I don’t see the point in having a child if you are unable to spend a significant amount of time with the child in the most important first 1-2 years of their life (developmentally wise).  Don’t get me wrong – early learning education is vital in my opinion but I personally found my son was only just ready around 12+ months of age.  However, I didn’t start him until 17 months and returned to work when my son was approximately 18 months of age.

Our employment agreement at work entitles its staff up to 12 weeks pay (it is stepped depending of service years – you are required to work 4 years I think it is to be entitled to the full 12 weeks) but the ‘week of pay’ is worked out on your preceding 12 months of service.  For example, if I took paid parental leave now I have worked 3 days a week at 7.25 hrs a day for the past 12 months so I am only entitled to take this multiplied by 12 as my employee funded PPL.

Being an employee of establishments that offered their own scheme was always seen as an additional benefit and these larger establishments are generally more difficult to get employment in like local, state and federal government, and large enterprises.  However, now that ‘benefit’ has been devalued.  Most large establishments and governments are under an enterprise bargaining (EB) arrangement which is underpinned by an act setting out the minimum standards.  EBs generally exist for 3 years or so.  So what about these more buggers that are stuck in an EB that was designed around their employees being already entitled to the government’s scheme?  Should we not be endeavouring to at least spend the first 6 months of life full time with our children?  As per international minimum standards?  As per the World Health Organisation’s recommendations?  If we were given 6 months of paid leave (of which my current employer scheme and the government scheme combined almost achieves), most of us might be able to stretch that out with other annual leave, long service leave, half pay arrangements or savings… to 12 months.  The current government’s signature policy at time of election was a government funded 26 weeks at full time wages!  What happened!?  Did they suddenly get amnesia and forgot the studies, the recommendations and their own stance on the subject?

My husband and I saved a significant amount of money in order for me to have 18 months off with our first child.  We received some reduced employee funded PPL benefits and the government’s 18 weeks PPL at minimum wage.  However, when you go to have child number two your disposable income is not the same.  You are not able to siphon away what you did before from the budget.  You are know paying for one child and everything that comes along with it, such as: nappies, formula, clothes, food, medication, medical expenses, child care fees, increased health insurance, other insurances (if applicable)… AND one of you probably only works part time now in order to care for that first child.

In my opinion, Australia just took a major step backwards in comparison to international minimum standards!  It has sacrificed not only the wellbeing of new mothers and newborns for savings that could have been found elsewhere in the budget, but also the ability of those hoping for their first or next child to afford to do so.

We need to petition this as a nation and have it stopped at senate!  The Liberals just committed political suicide.  Bring on the NEXT election!

*Names have been changed to protect the contributors privacy.

About Rebecca

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Hi I'm Bec and this is my my blog Daycare Decisions. I am a mum of 2, passionate about early education, nature play and a parents' transition back to the workforce after having a baby.

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