What impacts Economic Security for Women” Roundtables - Findings and Recommendations
“Women experience a greater burden of compliance, income suspension and the non-payment of child support. It is women who are most likely to engage in the Social Security System and rely upon the child support scheme for their entitled payment. Systems are currently causing increased delays, grief, distress and financial stress.”
“There is an absolute inadequacy of the way the systems are designed. The one-pointed question asked by DSS for payment/allowance allocation – “can you shower yourself” – but asks nothing about whether you can physically get to shower. The humanity in the system is lacking.”
Key Areas that impact women’s economic security:
- Carer payments and allowances
- Carer Financial Contribution
- Superannuation contribution for Carers
- Skills Assistance for carers re-entering the workforce
- Parental Leave enhancements
- Work-place flexibility
- Child Support
- New Start
- Legislation and Law reform
SIMPLICITY FOR APPLYING FOR CARER PAYMENTS AND ALLOWANCES
- Too much time & money wasted on compliance
- Website too complex
- Does not keep up with technology
- Long queues on phone (carer informed #742 in queue)
- Fax machines or post still required – no email or online form option
- Constantly repeating who you are and what you require
- Qantas knows all about you
- Your private health insurance know who you are by your member number and your history pops up on the screen of the customer service agent
- Allocate funds to bring the Government systems up to the 21st Century
- Streamline the process to access entitlements.
SKILLS ASSISTANCE FOR CARERS WHEN RE-ENTERING PAID WORKFORCE
- Carers find themselves left behind with technology and systems when taking time out of the workforce
- At no cost to the carer the Australia’s national training system could be provided to all carers to gain the skills to secure and maintain rewarding and sustainable employment.
CARER FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS:
- Carer’s penalised for undertaking paid work
- Contribution not a liveable wage
- Contribution linked to the intensity of the care given
- Level of care, eg – 24/7 or a couple hours a day compared to preparing 2 meals a day
- There is a very big difference in the capability for a carer to subsidize their carer payment and/or allowance to obtain a liveable wage with paid work
- Paid work should be encouraged without penalty
- ie if a person takes 2-3 hours of paid work a week (for either extra cash or for their own mental wellbeing) – they should not be penalised by completing a number of forms and the regular carer payment/allowance being cut down to an insignificant amount (ie $20 for the week)
- The need for a change in corporate culture
- Stigma for leaving the work-place for carer duties
- Job share options
- Part-time options
- Part-time hours of work – not consolidate 5 days into 3.
SUPERANNUATION CONTRIBUTIONS FOR CARERS
- The women (and men) undertaking carer duties had very little or no superannuation funds. This has led to women becoming homeless or living with their children
- Women (and men) working in the paid carer roles are typically employed on a casual basis and sometimes by more than one provider putting them under the $450 threshold for the super guarantee
- As referenced in eS4W’s White Paper on the Impact The impact of unpaid care work on women’s economic security in Australia recommends that contributions to the carer’s superannuation fund should be made on a regular (annual) basis, depending on a means and superannuation balance test. At a minimum, the government payment should be $5,000 per annum (indexed to the CPI), which is a level that would supplement retirement savings while the carer is away from paid employment. This would help to ensure that on retirement, there is a greater probability of a viable retirement nest egg.
This is not a new “idea” but one that has been suggested in various forms and many times over the years by:
- Productivity Commission Inquiry – valuing unpaid caring work
- Australian Human Rights Commission: Investing in care: Volume 1: Research Report 2013
- Many countries with social insurance-based public pension schemes have introduced the means of crediting a person’s public pension scheme while they are out of the workforce providing care. Some of the countries which have caring credit systems effectively operating include France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland and the UK.
At a time when superannuation contributions are seen as an important factor in reducing the call on the public pension over the longer term, a near term financial cost of the contribution to superannuation would have lifelong benefits of great financial security in retirement, including for carers.
- Removing legislative gaps in SG coverage, particularly the wage threshold of $450 per month for SG contributions.
PARENTAL LEAVE ENHANCEMENTS
- Current PPL is inflexible
- Primary carer – 18 weeks leave paid at National Minimal Wage
- Not a shared right – father tends to be ‘secondary carer’
- Unpaid parental leave – 12 or 24 months, continuous block
- Compared to the UK
- Contingent on maternity leave right (right is transferred)
- 50 weeks of leave can be shared – 37 weeks are paid, 13 are unpaid
- Flat rate of pay
- Each parent can take leave in up to 3 blocks
- Implement the changes to the Paid Parental Leave Act 2010 to enable eligible claimants to claim up to 30 days of parental leave pay (PLP) within 24 months of the birth or adoption of a child, in addition to 12 weeks of PLP within 12 months of the child’s birth or adoption; and A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 and A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act 1999 to make consequential amendments.
- Extend and fund the Superannuation Guarantee to the statutory Paid Parental Leave scheme. PPL should be strengthened to ensure the superannuation guarantee is included in the Government scheme and any supplemental income provided by employers during periods of parental leave.