Advocates Call for Paid Parental Leave Expansion

Advocates Call for Paid Parental Leave Expansion
Stock photo of the feet of a new-born. (Fred Dufour /AFP via Getty Images)

The government is being urged to expand paid parental leave as a parliamentary committee prepares to examine the scheme.

Advocacy group The Parenthood is calling on the government to increase the amount of paid parental leave to 52 weeks, along with allowing for universal access to early childhood education.

The organisation’s executive director Georgie Dent is set to appear at a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, which is examining issues around work and care arrangements, and how well the current laws are working.

In its submission to the inquiry, the organisation said inadequate paid parental leave along with a lack of family-friendly work environments had made care challenging for many families.

“Australia lags developed countries in the provision of best practice, evidence-based policies that optimally support children, parents and families,” the submission said.

“For children to thrive, they need support, and so do their parents and carers.”

It comes as the Greens flagged plans to introduce a bill to parliament that would entitle people to 26 weeks of paid parental leave.

Under the party’s proposal, parental leave would be paid at the same rate as the carer’s wage or salary up to $100,000 per year (US$66,850)—meaning a maximum of $50,000 in leave payments over the full 26 weeks.

Parents would also have “use it or lose it” incentives in order to encourage shared parenting.

Greens Senate leader Larissa Waters said fairer paid parental leave would benefit the broader economy as well as parents.

“The fairer paid parental leave bill will reduce the amount of time women are missing a pay cheque and provide families with more incentives, and more support, to share caring responsibilities more fairly,” she said.

“Australia has one of the weakest parental leave schemes in the developed world, especially for fathers. There was unanimous support from the jobs and skill summit participants for that to change.”

Thrive by Five director Jay Weatherill has also backed plans for an increase in paid parental leave from 18 to 26 weeks.

Weatherill said a bonus of two weeks should be provided if it is shared between parents.

And the scheme should expand to 30 weeks of leave by 2025.

“Expanding paid parental leave is a cornerstone of early learning reform, increasing women’s workforce participation and supporting the wellbeing of children and families,” he said.

“We must ensure that Australia keeps up to speed with the global consensus on paid parental leave.”

The committee is due to report by February.