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Parental leave super ‘essential to narrow gender gap’

Super

Industry bodies increase pressure on Labor to deliver equality between men and women come retirement.  

By Josh Needs 10 minute read

Women are retiring with fewer savings than men because superannuation is not payable on parental leave, but industry bodies have begun to mobilise on the topic.

Superannuation firm HESTA has been joined by several industry groups in calling on the government to start paying super on Commonwealth-paid parental leave to help reduce the financial gap between men and women.

Modelling from HESTA revealed that the measure would result in a mother of two having $14,000 more at retirement.

HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said that women were being punished for having children.

“This is effectively a financial penalty women pay and it’s unacceptable and deeply unfair. Our system has had a gender blind-spot for far too long,” she said.

In the lead-up to the election, Labor said it was in favour of paying super on government-funded paid parental leave with then shadow superannuation minister Stephen Jones saying it was “a job that has to be done”.

However, since coming to power Labor has been quiet on the issue except for a comment this week from Treasurer Jim Chalmers.

“We all see those quite shocking gender disparities at retirement, and we will fund the super guarantee on paid parental leave when the budget circumstances permit that,” said Mr Chalmers at a roundtable hosted by the Australian Financial Review this week.

Figures from ABS released yesterday showed the median super balance for men over 65 was $208,200 in 2020, but the equivalent for women was just $168,000. 

Ms Blakey said that beginning to pay super on Commonwealth paid parental leave would be a key equity measure that could greatly assist women. 

“Every extra dollar our members can add to their super can really make a difference when they retire,” said Ms Blakey.

“Achieving adequate super savings is then even harder as they’ll often also need to take long periods of unpaid time out of the workforce to care for others.

“This policy change will give women’s retirement savings a much needed boost, helping to close the gender super gap, as women are currently much more likely to be the ones taking parental leave.”

Irrespective of gender, over 85 per cent of HESTA members surveyed supported paying super on parental leave.

“Parental leave is the only commonly taken form of paid leave that does not include superannuation, sending a clear message that caring work is undervalued,” said Ms Blakey.

“Our members have told us paying super on paid parental leave is incredibly important to them and that they want to see this longstanding inequity changed so our retirement system is fairer for all Australians.”

CPA Australia general manager of media and content Dr Jane Rennie agreed with Ms Blakey and said that the government would narrow the gender inequality gap if it went ahead.

“The retirement income review investigated paying superannuation on parental leave and found it would help reduce the gap between men and women’s super balances,” she said.

“Australians are paid superannuation on sick leave and annual leave, there is no reason parents shouldn’t be paid super on parental leave.”

Some of the industry groups supporting HESTA’s call on the government to take action include the Australian Women Lawyers Association, Australian Services Union, the United Workers Union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions among many others. 

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Josh Needs

Josh Needs

AUTHOR

Josh Needs is a journalist at Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, which are the leading sources of news, strategy, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Josh studied journalism at the University of NSW and previously wrote news, feature articles and video reviews for Unsealed 4x4, a specialist offroad motoring website. Since joining the Momentum Media Team in 2022, Josh has written for Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser.

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