Paid parental leave increased for premature babies

Paid parental leave increased for premature babies

Parents with premature babies will get an extra boost with paid parental leave extended for them under new Government changes.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse made the announcement this afternoon following consultation with ACT leader David Seymour.

It would allow eligible parents with pre-term babies more financial support based on how early the child arrives.

Mr Woodhouse says an additional weekly payment will be made for each week the baby was born prior to the 37-week gestation period.

For example, a mother who gives birth at 28 weeks will receive nine extra weeks of payments on top of the standard 18 which comes into effect on April 1 next year.

The changes will be made through the Employment Standards Legislation Bill currently before Parliament.

Labour's Sue Moroney who has a Bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks says the Government's measure will leave a lot of people in the cold.

Her Bill has the numbers to pass, but the Government could still use its financial veto.

"Thousands of families are going to be missing out on an entitlement to paid parental leave because of National's political game playing.

"[Mr Seymour] could have voted for my Bill in February and thousands of additional families would have access to the support they need," she says.

Last month, Mr Seymour said he was in talks with the Government to support parents with premature babies, multiple births or babies with special needs.

Ms Moroney says Mr Seymour was tricked by National to pull his support for her Bill which did exactly what he wanted.

But Mr Seymour says what it has shown is some of the other provisions he wanted were "redundant" and there are existing benefits for multiple births and babies with disabilities.

"What's important is there are around 5000 babies a year that come here earlier than expected and I think there should be a little bit extra for their parents," he says.

The change in stance from what he had earlier wanted to what was eventually agreed to was a result of "new information".

"I feel like when the facts change, I change my opinion. We've got new facts and we've made better policy as a result."

Ms Moroney's Bill was set to have its first reading in Parliament on August 26, but it ran over time debating the changes to allow bars to open for the Rugby World Cup games.

It was re-scheduled for next week.

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