News on the other side of the world. This is for my Australian readers and anyone who is just interested...
MOTHERS should have the right to ask for two years unpaid maternity leave - as they though do in the United Kingdom - if they do not want to rush back to work, Opposition leader Kim Beazley said today.
Announcing a range of childcare initiatives this morning, Mr Beazley, said it was a mark of a good society that mothers who wanted to work should be able to and those who chose not to were also given support. "I take a very simple approach to this problem. Women who want to work outside the home should always be able to," he said. "I think it’s terrible when families miss out on an income they rely on, and the economy misses out on skills that are in short supply, just because of the cost and shortages of childcare."
But while childcare was important, Mr Beazley said many parents don’t want to rush straight back to paid work after the birth of a baby. "In this country, around half of all mothers of children under five are home fulltime, and around another third are home part-time. A lot of women believe the best thing for the children is if they can be at home in the early years," he said. "Fair enough, too. A good society is one which makes sure they can." Labor would allow employees to request two years unpaid maternity leave – plus give them a right to return to work part-time or with flexible hours. "The employer would be able to refuse the request on reasonable grounds, for instance if it would have a detrimental effect on their business," he said. The eight policy document released by Labor offers Fringe Benefits Tax exemption and entitlement to claim business tax deductions for employers who provide eligible employer-provided childcare and allow employees using eligible employer-provided childcare to salary sacrifice their fees. The offer of tax concession is meant to reflect Labor’s new view, expanded by Opposition finance spokesman Lindsay Tanner in The Australian today, that taxpayer support to business must not be passive welfare, rather it should be a response to a commitment from business. The blueprint builds on a previous commitment to spend $200 million to establish 260 new childcare centres on primary school grounds and other community land, to create up to 25,000 new childcare places and end the "double drop off" – taking children to two or more locations in the morning. The Coalition said reducing fringe benefit tax on childcare would harm lower and middle income earners unless there were significant changes to the existing 30 per cent rebate on out of pocket expenses. Assistant treasurer Peter Dutton, who has previously owned childcare centres, warned that the tax concession would effectively reduce the money handed back to lower income earners for childcare. ”The benefit from salary packaging child care using the FBT exemption would depend on an individual’s marginal tax rate. Under Kim Beazley’s plan, families facing high marginal tax rates may benefit but families on low and middle incomes would go backwards," he said in a prepared statement. Mr Dutton said that in 2006-07, a family with one parent earning $71,000 and the other earning $14,000 (a combined income of $85,000), requiring 50 hours a week child care for 50 weeks, would be $1,767.50 better off on the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Tax Rebate than they would under Labor’s plan. "Significantly, under Kim Beazley's plan, if a family benefits from the FBT exemption for on-premises child care, then the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Tax Rebate are not available," he said."Why does Labor’s only child care plan ignore so many Australian families?"Labor would also get rid of TAFE fees for eligible childcare courses by giving childcare trainees a skills account with an initial deposit of $1,200 per year for up to two years. Labor's think-tank, the Chifley Research Centre, is also preparing a report on options including other tax breaks to encourage employers to invest in childcare, like an accelerated or premium rate of capital depreciation or increased deduction rate for recurrent expenditure as well as a system of capped, tax-free childcare credits paid by employers to employees or centres. Source: The Australian