Parents are currently able to access 24 hours of means tests Child Care Benefit per child per week, without having to meet a work or study test. To access non-means tested Child Care Rebate, both partners need to work or train “at the same time” during the week – but there is no minimum number of hours required.
However, the government is currently considering recommendations made by the Productivity Commission which require parents to work for 24 hours a fortnight before they could access any childcare funding.
Early Childhood Australia has expressed concerns that, if the recommendations are put into action, some mothers would struggle. At least 16.4 per cent of mothers – or approximately 100,000 women – work less than 24 hours a fortnight as the ease back into working life following the birth of their baby.
There is also concern about what the restrictions would mean for low-middle income families who often rely on shift work or casual work where hours are much less predictable.
"Many families are working less than 24 hours per fortnight so we need to be encouraging them to maintain workforce attachment, rather than putting up further barriers," said Early Childhood Australia’s chief executive Samantha Page.
Page has offered an alternative recommendation, in which all parents get up to two days a week of subsidised childcare per child, without having to meet a so-called "activity test".
To access 50 hours of subsidy a week, she says both parents should need to work, train or study for 24 hours a fortnight.
Part-time working parents make up a significant portion of Australia’s workforce but there are growing concerns that more than 100,000 will have to ditch their day jobs if the Abbott government goes ahead with suggested changes to childcare subsidies.