Labor considers 20 weeks of paid parental leave for fathers

Labor considers 20 weeks of paid parental leave for fathers

Amanda Rishworth

Fathers could be entitled to 20 weeks of paid parental leave under new plans being discussed by the Labor government.

According to a report from The Australian, the government is considering reforming the current paid parental leave system to encourage more fathers to take it in the first two years of their child’s life.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said she supports offering more flexibility to parents and families when it comes to government funded paid parental leave.

Rishworth also said she believes more men want to have the opportunity to become primary caregivers when they have a child. She has also indicated she will open discussions with business and employers about how best to create a system that will work for families.

Currently, paid parental leave funded by the federal government offers a primary caregiver (most often the mother in heterosexual relationships) 18 weeks of leave at the minimum wage. Men often receive two weeks of “partner pay” as a secondary carer.

Providing both parents with the opportunity to take up adequate paid parental leave could be a game-changing reform for young families, and it could help improve women’s participation in the workforce.

Removing “primary” and “secondary” labels is considered an important step in encouraging fathers to take parental leave, as is a “use it or lose it” approach to nudge men into taking the leave that is dedicated to them.

Paid parental leave policies that encourage shared responsibility between parents for the care of children have been shown to promote women’s participation in the paid workforce, and also set up a pattern of a more equal division of care work between partners.

In the Morrison government’s final budget before the election, the two weeks of “partner pay” was merged with the 18 weeks of parental leave for the primary carer. It meant that either parent would be able to take up to 20 weeks of the paid parental leave on offer.

While an improvements for single parents, the policy was criticised for removing the specific provision for fathers.

Recent data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency showed three in five employers now offer paid parental leave in some form to their employees. The paid parental leave offered by leading firms is often much more generous than the government’s offering. For example, KPMG has boosted its paid parental leave scheme to to 26 weeks, with no “primary” or “secondary” carer status.

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