This service is no longer live but has been archived for information purposes only. Click here for more info.

Paid parental leave

Giving working mums and dads paid parental leave could be the answer to a lot of Australia’s problems, but how are we going to afford it?

Submitted 4/12/2006 By kellyendo Views 37447 Comments 12 Updated 11/28/2008

Photographer : psoup216

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,  

National Tertiary Education Union, ¬‘Paid maternity leave and the NTEU’  

O’Neill, S 2004, ¬ ‘Paid maternity leave’, ‘Parental/maternity leave’  

Sydney Morning Herald online, ‘20 weeks' paid leave plan for new parents’, viewed Nov 28, 2008.

The Age online, ‘Paid parent leave good for business’, viewed Nov 28, 2008.

The Australian Human Rights Commission,‘Productivity Commission Inquiry into Paid Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave’
, viewed Nov 28, 2008

The Age online, ‘Blokey union seeks baby leave for dads’, viewed Nov 27, 2008.


Discuss Now

Post Comment 1 | 2 | 3 |

RSS Comments

AndreaL7 27-Jul-2008

I also agree that Australia needs to get on the bandwagon and implement PLM into their political agenda. Although there is the issue of men taking a big role in child rearing, and not being compensated for their efforts if women were to receive paid leave, the facts still stand that more women are the bigger care givers at the beginning stages of their childs life. This should not be about equality- it should be about whoever will be staying at home to care for the child, should be the one receiving the compensation from either the government and or the workplace.

I would just like to point out that in Canada we have a strong system that supports women wanting to go on maternity leave. Most employers must be willing to put a hold on their workers employment duties for an alloted time, usually 8 months or more, and then reassign their position to them upon their return. Teachers have it made as well. You are allowed to take a year off from work, paid, and if you wish to take anymore, you can do so knowing that your job will be there when you return. It is amazing- Get on board Australia!



Ursula 17-Apr-2008

FYI - I wrote a bit more on PLM in Israel and Austria on my blog:



Ursula 17-Apr-2008

I truly believe PLM is a must. I remember being brain washed (rightly I would say) how important breastfeeding is, and than in reality the law here in Israel (3 month of PML) sends me back to work so fast. I did extract milk at the office, but it is never the same as real breast feeding. Staying at home I was breast feeding my first born for 17 month; with my third son (working full-time) I gave up after six months. What a shame.



Pixiecastle 08-Feb-2008

I'm from Singapore and Paid Maternity is mandatory! It's to encourage working professionals to give birth and start a family as there are more couples without kids. It used to be 2 months paid leave by company and just 2 years ago, they changed it to 3months with the last month paid by govt.

We don't have free education, nor do we have family assistance to help out. What we do have is $350 off for kids going to childcare / babycare when they acceed certain amount of time and it applies only to working mothers who worked more than 36 hours a week. But i think the childcare fee in australia is too high. Normal standard fee in singapore is $500 - $1k for full day, 5.5 days per week.

We do have a scheme call the "Central providence fund" where you contribute 20% of yr salary to this Gov't fund and the employer will do a 12-15% (depends on yr employer) to yours every month. That's used for retirees or you can use the amount to pay for your hospital bills, and to pay for your house instead of using cash to do it.

In singapore, if you don't work, you don't get money. If there's really a problem, govt might let you defer your house loan, utility bills for max. 3 months. And i believe that applies to most asian countries. It's a very competitive country, where most companies wouldn't allow you to be taking unpaid leave for 12months then retain your position. If you intend to take this long, then it's goodbye to you. Your position will be snapped up in a few weeks.

We do not have medicard where you can get free medical even you do not work. The employer will pay for your medical bills from company's clinics. So to say, if you don't work, you have to pay for your own medical treatment.

Primary school children have to pay for school books which can be up to $100 or more and monthly of $15, not inclusive of all the activities that the school provides. As the academic standard there is high, parents started paying for tution fees for kids as young as 6 years old. Kids practically no childhood.

You can't get the best of both worlds.. hehe..



Millina 02-Jan-2008

One of the problems is that there is a need to re-evaluate the
assumptions and frames of reference which underlie government policy making in regards to PML to better incorporate the social need of balancing work and family life.

The link below will lead you to an interesting article about government policy and decision making during the last election year.'t-be-ignored-907456912.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap2