What’s the issue?
Paid parental leave is when an employee is paid while they take time off work in order to have a baby, or care for a newborn. Parental leave includes both maternity leave for women, and paternity leave for men, so they can be more involved in their baby’s early life.
What does Australia offer?
In Australia, many businesses have offered unpaid maternity leave. From 2006 to 2008, the number of businesses offering 12 weeks of paid maternity leave grew from 27% to 40%. The people who miss out are often women who work part-time or in small businesses. Men are rarely considered for paternity leave.
Most developed countries have some form of government-enforced paid parental leave. In 2008, the federal government put forward a plan to make paid parental leave compulsory. It suggests 18 weeks leave for women, and two weeks for men, being paid at the minimum wage. If women choose not to take the full 18 weeks, men may be able to “use up” the rest of the time off.
Reasons for Paid Parental Leave:
- Increasing the well-being of the baby.
- Creating strong family bonds in early childhood.
- Supporting equality for women in the workplace.
- Supporting fathers as carers in the home.
- Addressing the “skills shortage” by keeping professional women working.
- Supporting the growth of Australia’s population.
- Supporting the growth of the economy by avoiding staff turnover.
- Many countries consider parental leave a basic human right.
Problems with Paid Parental Leave:
- Non-working mothers and fathers might be disadvantaged.
- Parents may take advantage of business-paid parental leave but not return to work afterwards.
- The initiative could become very expensive and overwhelm the government’s budget.
What’s being done?
The current debate is not really about whether parental leave is a good idea, it’s more about how much leave should be given, and where the funding should come from. Some current benefits like the Baby Bonus and Family Tax Benefits may be substituted for paid parental leave for those participating in the plan. Businesses will be encouraged to “top up” the government’s minimum wage parental payments.
Male-dominated workers unions have come out to speak on behalf of working fathers. While they support paternity leave, they are working towards four weeks leave for fathers, and want the government and businesses to support men as carers in the home.
The Australian Human Rights Council has been advising the government, and having already won some ground, they will continue to fight for more rights for working families.
Based on “Paid Maternity Leave” written by Kelly Endo. Edited by Tegan03.
How do I know this?
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, www.hreoc.gov.au
National Tertiary Education Union, ¬‘Paid maternity leave and the NTEU’ www.nteu.org.au/rights/currentissues/matlea...
O’Neill, S 2004, ¬ ‘Paid maternity leave’ www.aph.gov.au/library/intguide/ECON/matern...
Women.gov.au, ‘Parental/maternity leave’ www.women.gov.au/channel/channel.asp?ctid=1...
Sydney Morning Herald online, ‘20 weeks' paid leave plan for new parents’ www.smh.com.au/news/national/20-weeks-baby-leave-plan/2008/09/29/1222650958160.html, viewed Nov 28, 2008.
The Age online, ‘Paid parent leave good for business’ www.theage.com.au/news/national/paid-parent-leave-good-for-business/2008/05/26/1211653938524.html, viewed Nov 28, 2008.
The Australian Human Rights Commission,‘Productivity Commission Inquiry into Paid Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave’ www.hreoc.gov.au/legal/submissions/2008/paid
_maternity_leave_20080520.html , viewed Nov 28, 2008
The Age online, ‘Blokey union seeks baby leave for dads’ www.theage.com.au/news/national/blokey-union-seeks-baby-leave-for-dads/2008/05/12/1210444339486.html, viewed Nov 27, 2008.