The debate of parental leave in Australia remains a controversial topic especially as the federal government attempts to pull back entitlements and put an end to “double dipping”. The term was coined by then treasurer, Joe Hockey to describe women who were being paid parental leave by the government and their employer. However, public opinion surrounding parental leave is favourable and support for new mothers within the government and the workplace is generally strong. For new fathers there is still a long way to go.
January 1 2013 meant that fathers and other eligible partners could receive two weeks Dad and Partner Pay under the Australian Governments Paid Parental Leave Scheme. Dad and Partner Pay are available to eligible full-time, part-time, casual, seasonal, contract and self-employed workers. Currently, new parents are entitled to 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage, which works out as $11, 826 per household and is able to be divided between both parents however they should choose.
According to a new research paper from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development just one in fifty Australian men takes parental leave. Why?
The S Word
La Trobe University’s Dr Amanda Cooklin, who studies contemporary parenthood, said the workplace is still deeply traditional in it’s approach to gender roles.
“Fatherhood is still synonymous with being the breadwinner. Many individual men really want to change this, but our workplaces haven’t shifted to accommodate that,” said Ms. Cooklin.
We spoke to a couple of fathers and tried to uncover why men were not taking advantage of the scheme. Most responses revealed fathers in the workplace were nervous and reluctant to ask for flexible work arrangements because they believed there would be repercussions. They were worried their future within their current role and their credibility would be impacted.
Professor Beth Gaze, an expert on employment law at University of Melbourne says this makes men less likely to ask for leave, a phenomenon called “discrimination avoidance”.
The problem here is that many HR manuals set their standard but do not make employers feel comfortable enough to take advantage of these systems. Generally employers are more than happy to accommodate family situations and it’s just a matter of communication. If your employer hang in for our next blog post because there are lots of benefits to you for offering and encouraging fathers to use parental leave.
It’s not only the workplace that is still traditional in its views. Although dads are more involved in their children’s lives then 30 years ago there is still the expectation for fathers to get back into work and support their families. Their responsibilities are increasing but the support isn’t keeping up and this is why we continue to see the emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing of new dads compromised.
So why make the switch?
So dads at this point you might be thinking why would I want to make the switch from suit to spew (even just for a few weeks).
We’ve outlined some of the most important reasons:
- Dads spending time with their family early on is good for dads, good for mums, good for babies and is good for the workplace and economy.
- Fathers, or partners, who care for their kids are more likely to stay engaged in that relationship as their children grow
- Children with dads who participate more in family life also have better emotional outcomes and mental health.
- Dads benefit too: they have greater satisfaction with their lives, and better physical and mental health.
- This additional financial assistance will be especially important for fathers who find it difficult to balance the family budget when their baby is born, such as casual employees without annual leave entitlements and self-employed people like tradespeople, small business owners and those working in a family business or farm.
- Parental leave also allows women to return to work and gain a greater measure of economic independence.
For more information on the full scheme and eligibility you can visit: