Does paid parental leave neglect new dads?

by Human Capital21 Mar 2014
New dads are often neglected when the discussion turns to parental leave, but giving incentives to proud fathers so they too can tend to their new baby could have far-reaching benefits – including moving closer to pay equality between the sexes.
 
Progress towards shared parenting will help to improve equality between men and women, both at work and at home, according to The Age columnist Ben Moxham.
 
Indeed, an international study showed that a mother's future earnings increased by seven per cent on average over a four-year period, for every month of parental leave the father took.

“The main parental leave debate seems to be how much pay a mother should get, and whether this is affordable,” he said.
 
“Yet, there's precious little discussion on how the scheme could get fathers to take more than a handful of days off to look after a newborn.”
 
The current system of federal parental leave provides up to 18 weeks pay to the mother at a minimum wage, presently $622 per week. New dads can also access two weeks’ paternity leave at minimum wage.
 
If the Abbott government's proposed scheme passes Parliament, it will commence on July 1, 2015 and will allow mothers to take up to 26 weeks at their actual wage, capped at $75,000 ($150,000 salary).
 
Under both schemes, the mother can return to work and transfer her leave entitlements to the baby’s father – although in practice, this happens in fewer than 1 in 20 cases, Moxham said.
 
While Abbott’s policy reform is generous, it “just entrenches the role of women as chief nappy-changers, while fathers are left to get on with their careers or their golf,” he added.
 
“Women are more likely to [return to] work in low-paid casual or part-time jobs, to fit around childcare… while pregnancy discrimination was the top complaint taken to the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2012-13,”  he said.
 
These are key reasons why the gender pay gap exists and he believes “shared parenting can help to tackle this”.
 
Of course, many organisations are already proactive about building comprehensive parental leave policies. At ExxonMobil Australia, for instance, a competitive 15 weeks paid parental leave is offered to the primary caregiver, along with priority access to quality childcare located near the company’s head office.
 
Suzanne Gare, HR Services Manager at ExxonMobil, credits these policies with the company’s high return to work rate of 96%. She believes ExxonMobil’s programs have been a great success, allowing them to attract, retain and develop the best people.

COMMENTS

  • by Bree Vreedenburgh 21/03/2014 12:39:21 PM

    There is always going to be a measure of disparity in parental leave, since the mother is the one who goes through the physical birthing process and the mother is the provider of food to the newborn. This means that the mother has NO OPTION but to take at least SOME time off work - so the father is never going to be able to access the entire parental leave bucket.
    So long as the option is there for parental leave rights to be transferred between the parents, I think that is going to be as close to parity as possible. Now all we need to do is change society's antiquated beliefs that the mother should be the one to stay home with the kids (after the initial birth period), and we might be starting to get somewhere...

  • by Catherine 21/03/2014 3:48:10 PM

    Absolutely fathers should have the same entitlement to paid parental leave. It is not only a good option to share the stay at home parenting, but will start to remove the (mostly unstated) concern about women of a certain age bracket "getting pregnant - and being entitled to the benefits".

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