The Coalition’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme was a definite factor in securing the recent federal election, offering 26 weeks of paid parental leave to mothers based on their actual wage, or the national minimum wage (whichever is higher). It will be achieved through a 1.5% levy on companies earning more than $5m in taxable income.
However, Helen Conway, director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), has voiced concerns that the levy may result in organisations dismissing other gender-based initiatives.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in government, there will be a limited amount of money you can spend on gender initiatives,” she told Business Insider. “There are a number of things to be worked on and we can’t afford a lot of money for all of them so it’s a question of how we wisely spend the resources that are available to this area to make sure that all those key factors are given some attention.”
While not completely dismissive of the paid parental leave scheme, Conway warned that it was simply one part of a multi-faceted problem regarding gender equality in the workplace, as child-bearing is not the only reason women leave the workforce.
“Women leave because they just hate the culture of [largely male-dominated] organisations … It’s all about leadership; culture changes when leaders drive that change,” she explained.
The WGEA highlight a number of areas that make up the gender equality puzzle, including workforce composition, gender composition of governing bodies (such as management committees or the board of directors), remuneration, availability to flexible arrangements, consultation and discourse between employee and employer regarding gender equality, and a number of other areas such as hiring procedures and development.
“You can’t just pick paid parental leave or childcare and say, ‘that’s the nut we need to crack and then we’ll have gender equality’ … what we’re saying is these are the indicators, these are the things we need to improve, on the journey towards gender equality,” Conway said.
Do you agree with Conway’s fears? Is the Paid Parental Leave Scheme a step in the right direction, or detracting from the issue?