National industry super fund HESTA says the May 2023 Federal Budget is an opportunity to deliver a fairer super system for women and low- and middle-income earners, with new HESTA modelling showing paying super on the Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay scheme and better targeting tax concessions could significantly improve the retirement balances of critical health and community services professionals.
New modelling in HESTA’s 2023-2024 Pre-Budget submission looks at the combined impact of paying super on the Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay scheme, extending eligibility for the Low Income Super Tax Offset (LISTO) to those earning up to $45,000 and bringing the offset in line with the current Superannuation Guarantee (10.5 per cent).
If these key equity measures were introduced, mothers working in vital health and community service sectors could see a super boost in retirement ranging from 3.7 per cent to more than 11 per cent, depending on how many children they have.
About 250,000 HESTA members could see an increase to their super savings if the LISTO eligibility alone was extended.
HESTA CEO Debby Blakey says the Federal Budget is a chance to address the “motherhood penalty”, where women faced a more insecure financial future because they took time out of the workforce to care for children.
“Every dollar our members can add to their super counts,” Blakey says.
“That’s why the Federal Budget is a key opportunity to make real progress on boosting women’s financial security in retirement.
“Our super system is one of the world’s best, but gaps remain that overwhelmingly disadvantage women and those earning lower wages.
“Now’s the time to address super’s persisting gender blind spot.
“Not only are these reforms the right thing to do, but our modelling also shows they could be life changing for members on low and middle incomes and would start us on the path to closing the gender super gap once and for all.”
HESTA has outlined five recommendations to the Federal Government to address persisting inequities in the super system.
These include prioritising paying super on the Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay scheme, extending the LISTO eligibility and adjusting other tax concessions for high income earners.
HESTA also recommends scrapping super tax concessions flowing to accounts with balances of more than $5 million and introducing a carer’s credit to assist those taking unpaid parental leave rebuild their super.
“Above all, we want to see the May Federal Budget prioritise paying super on the Parental Leave Pay scheme, as this is a key outstanding equity measure for our retirement system,” Blakey says.
“It’s not just about the dollars; failing to pay super on Parental Leave Pay sends a clear message to women that unpaid caring work continues to be undervalued in our society.”
Parental leave is the only widely accessed form of paid leave that does not include corresponding super contributions.
“This disproportionally impacts women, as women are currently much more likely to be the ones taking parental leave, who retire with around a quarter less super than men.
Blakey says persisting gender, income, and structural inequities remain prevalent in Australia’s income and taxation system, flowing through to superannuation.
For every $1 that women receive in superannuation tax concessions, men receive $2.52.
Close to 80 per cent of the Fund’s 970,000 members are women, with many typically low- and middle-income earners.
The median super balance for female HESTA members accumulating their super is $29,377 and they earn an estimated median salary of $59,214.
Blakey says now is the time to take action to make the nation’s super system fairer for women and those on lower wages.
“This is a critical year for super to address longstanding inequities that overwhelmingly impact women, as they shouldn’t be financially penalised after spending their lives caring for others.”
HESTA recommendations to Government in its 2023-24 Pre Budget Submission:
Closing the gender super gap
- Pay superannuation on the Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay scheme.
- Extend Low Income Super Tax Offset (LISTO) eligibility to those earning up to the top of the second tax bracket, linking the amount of the offset to the Superannuation Guarantee. Introduce an additional payment equal to 15 per cent of concessional contributions for individuals with taxable incomes below the effective tax-free threshold.
- Introduce a superannuation carer credit for unpaid parental leave.
Removing inequity in super tax concessions
- Cap the amount of superannuation balances to $5 million, where investment earnings exceeding this cap are taxed at the top personal income tax rate.
- Link the Division 293 threshold with the top marginal personal tax rate.
HESTA modelling showing the potential impact on member super balances at retirement from paying super on the Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay scheme and better targeting tax concessions for low income workers: