YOUNG mums who have taken advantage of paid parental leave insist they’ve done nothing outside the law and that they’ve done nothing wrong to warrant allegations they’re rorters, double dippers or committing fraud. For most women in regional areas, having a paid parental leave scheme from their employer is not common.
Government departments, councils and only the biggest corporate enterprises are about the only employers that offer paid parental leave to new mums, and mostly for only about 10 weeks and at half their salary.
So, they say, they’ve topped it up with an extra 18 weeks at the minimum wage from the federal government. That’s not wrong, it’s smart and it extends their leave from just four or five months, they claim.
“It’s just like getting employer benefits, like a phone or a car. We get that. There’s nothing wrong or illegal or unlawful about that. Most new mums in the Tamworth area don’t ever have that opportunity, because they work for small business and it is not an option,” one city new mother said.
She was just one of many local mums who have lashed out at the federal government’s slur that taking maternity leave was “double-dipping”.
The Abbott government, which took a generous paid parental leave (PPL)promise to two elections, has not only taken it off the table, but has signalled women will not be able to claim maternity leave pay from both their employer and the government.
Mums have been galvanised into speaking out, with Treasurer Joe Hockey calling it “basically fraud” and Social Services minister Scott Morrison dubbing it “a rort”.
The women are outraged at the suggestion they’ve been rorting the system when they were entitled to use both schemes.
Tamworth nurse Kate Van Doesburg is “double dipping” for the second time, and her husband for the first.
“We worked hard for our entitlements and find it offensive that people think we are rorting the system,” Ms Van Doesburg said.
“The ‘Minister for Women’ has had quite the backflip when it comes to PPL.”
The Van Doesburgs said it was very important for the time off to bond with their four-week-old daughter, Eleanor, and help their toddler Oliver adapt to being a big brother.
Fellow mum Katie Bare objected to the term “double dipping”, saying women had earned maternity entitlements by negotiating on things like a reduction in sick leave.
“It isn’t double dipping when you are entitled to it,” she said.
Local mother Anna Hollis agreed it was “insulting” for the government to insinuate mothers were doing the wrong thing.
“I think its an insult to women who are hard workers,” Ms Hollis said.
“We pay taxes, so we should be able to get some form of benefit.
“If this is the only time I ever get anything from the government, that’s justified.”
Ms Hollis said she was fortunate enough to receive 14 weeks maternity leave from her employer and 18 weeks from the government.
She said the seven months was a “beautiful” time spent bonding with her child and she was enthusiastic when she returned to work.
If the cuts went through, Ms Hollis feared women would be forced to place babies in daycare much
earlier, which was a struggle with extremely limited places locally and many children placed on waiting lists from the day they were born.
“It’s horrifying, that thought of having to put a little baby into care if it’s not essential,” Ms Hollis said.
“The policy will have a massive impact on when we will decide to have a child next.”
Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg admitted he and his wife double-dipped by accessing both schemes she was entitled to, while Finance Minister Matthias Cormann dodged questions about his wife using two maternity schemes, saying, “our family of course worked within a system that was available at the time, like any other family”.
After public outcry, Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday signalled he would restrict only public servants to the single maternity leave payment.
As a mother, local woman Keya Byrne said she could think of “nothing worse” than this policy.
“Yes, there are benefits to the new child care policies, however, those precious first weeks with a newborn can never be replaced,” Ms Byrne said.