The Australian Retailers Association has welcomed the Productivity Commission’s recommendation that a paid parental leave scheme would be tax-payer funded but remains concerned about the financial burden of compliance costs to SME retailers.

ARA Executive Director Richard Evans said the compliance costs associated with industry-wide maternity, paternity and parental leave scheme would place more financial strain on SME retailers who will be expected to act as ‘paymasters’ for the government-funded scheme and to provide capped superannuation contributions for the period of leave taken.

“Parents taking time off to care for children is a good thing for society but businesses shouldn’t have to pay – and while retailers will welcome the Productivity Commission’s decision for parental leave to be tax-payer funded – questions about financial burden associated with compulsory administration still remain.

“Our submission to the Productivity Commission indicated that retailers would support a six-week taxpayer-funded scheme. The draft report goes well beyond this, proposing paid parental leave of 18 weeks but fails to address essential rebates to small business operators for its administration on behalf of the government. This could be crippling for SME retailers,” said Evans.

“SME retailers are already suffering the collapse of consumer confidence from the effects of interest rate rises, petrol prices and marginal and inflationary pressures and should not have to wear any financial burden as a result of a tax-payer funded parental leave scheme.”

Evans said the government needs to very clear about compensation and reimbursement for employers.
“Retailers will support the concept of paid parental leave that provides employees certainty and security as long as it’s designed in a way that eliminates any cost to employers.

“Calls by unions for employers to contribute more to the proposed parental leave scheme confirm that they are only interested with big business and are out of touch with the modern small business workplace,” said Evans.

The ARA will continue to consult with its 400 largest members before making any further submission to the Productivity Commission by the due date of 14 November.