Super changes seek to shift scales toward women

Federal Women’s Minister, Kelly O’Dwyer, today announced a raft of policies intended to boost superannuation for women in the inaugural Women’s Economic Statement, as the Government looks to act on financial gender inequity.

The announced changes included early access to super in cases of domestic and family violence and more flexible paid parental leave, with reactions from the industry being mixed.

Australian Association of Superannuation Funds (ASFA) chief executive, Martin Fahy, welcomed the extension of the early release of super provisions.

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“Domestic and family violence is the principal cause of homelessness for women and their children. Often, physical violence is accompanied by financial abuse, which can make it difficult for a partner to leave the relationship,” Fahy said.

“On this basis we have advocated for extending early release of superannuation to circumstances of domestic violence.”

HESTA chief executive, Debbie Blakey, also welcomed the change, noting that it was “entirely appropriate” given the prevalence of family violence in Australia.

She noted however, that this should be “just the start of the conversation”, as consideration should also be given of how victims and survivors of domestic violence could access the perpetrator’s super as part of victims of crime compensation.

The Government also announced changes to paid parental leave to give greater flexibility and extend access to the self-employed, but Blakey again called for more, saying that “it’s still a glaring omission that paid parental leave is the only type of leave that does not attract superannuation contributions”.

Industry Super Australia head of consumer advocacy, Sarah Saunders, said this was a disappointing omission.

“Women still provide the lion’s share of care to children, ageing parents and grandkids in a system unforgiving of broken work patterns,” she said. “Adding super to paid parental leave would help women build their retirement savings. It is a simple and important change that should have bi-partisan support.”

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