Paid Parental Leave schemes that create disincentives for women to return to work and stifle workplace innovation in the business sector, will not be of long-term value, according to several major women’s advocacy groups.
The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) has compared and contrasted the Paid Parental Leave (PPL) schemes of the major political parties in the lead-up to Priorities for Women 2013 (see table in separate document). The full document is available at http://www.nfaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/PPL-Schemes-compared.final_.pdf
It has found that while the Coalition proposal to increase PPL to 26 weeks at a maximum of $75,000 is more generous it:
- Does not factor in relationships to existing company entitlements, which many women still enjoy in addition to the current 18 week government-funded PPL.
- Removes employer involvement and connection with PPL.
- Provides an incentive for employers to minimise female employee income below the $150,000 threshold.
- Encourages women to stay at home and disengage with the workforce – in particular those on salaries just below the $150,000 threshold.
- Pegs the payment to the women’s salary and fails to acknowledge that women who are the highest income earner or the family’s chief breadwinner may be keen to return to the workforce more quickly.
- Has the potential to reduce other corporate tax.
NFAW’s Marie Coleman said that both major parties needed to revise their policies to encourage female work-force attachment, and as well to promote both partners as carers.
“For example, in Norway, PPL is 47 weeks with 100 per cent pay or 57 weeks off with 80 per cent pay. Only the first six weeks are allocated exclusively to the woman and at least 10 weeks must be taken by the other partner – likely moving to 14 weeks on 1 July 2013.”
Ms Coleman said that “this ‘paternity quota’ enshrines the concept that men and women are equal caregivers for children in workplaces and is backed up by legislation giving the father the right to leave the office by 5.30pm to spend time with their families or to take time off for household and family chores.”
“As a consequence of the social licence given to men in Norway to play an equal role at home and work and a raft of accompanying family friendly policies and legislative instruments, the country has one of the highest workforce participation rates for women in the western world.”
“On both sides of politics we still have a relatively immature approach to PPL and associated family policies, such as childcare, which will not be best addressed by mandating large companies to pay a levy for what is effectively a large baby bonus.”
“Greater expenditure towards both reducing the effective marginal tax rate on a mother returning to work, and making child care more affordable and available are the NFAW’s top priorities for working mothers.”