To ensure the nation has sufficient workers, it is essential that women are employed and properly paid. Women have always worked but their contribution to the national economy has been mostly ignored. Without women in the nursing and teaching professions the nation would be unable to continue as a First World Nation. As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, it is essential that women are encouraged to remain in the workforce.
Paid Parental Leave is now available to all women in the paid workforce. It should be available as an entitlement for casual, part time and self employed women as well as full time workers.
Paid Parental Leave is similar to superannuation paid to aid a person’s financial situation at retirement and is a mandatory contribution by employers and attracts a tax benefit paid by the Federal Government. This is an issue that goes to the heart of social justice and quality of life for women and their families, especially the most vulnerable.
The wage-penalty effect of parental leave?
David Baker, a research fellow for The Australia Institute, says that mothers taking parental leave suffer a long-term loss of wages. The study identified a statistical loss of hourly wages for mothers between 2002 and 2009 who returned to work, whether they returned on a part-time or full-time basis. The Australian Government Paid Parental Scheme (PPL) was introduced in January 2011 and WEL hopes that this discrimination will not continue.
It is WEL policy that returning mothers must be offered the same opportunities as colleagues doing the same work. Equal pay for work of equal value must apply to all in the workplace. The PPL provides paid leave of 18 weeks which is not enough time to disadvantage a woman’s experience in the job.
The importance of the PPL for the country is that it keeps women engaged in the workforce. That is why the government pays, but the employer must keep contact with the woman by keeping her on the payroll and paying her wages. Mr Baker suggests that women on PPL should be able to visit the workplace for social reasons but not do any work. This could be an option for women to keep up-to-date with important skills and training, such as attending staff meetings.
Changing the current culture is certainly the main aim here and WEL supports the final recommendation of the Australian Institute report that there should be mandatory reporting by companies about any wage penalties for women or men returning from the PPL. In addition, women need to negotiate satisfactory wage arrangements with their employers.
In response to The Age reporting of this paper (Adele Horin, 18 July 2011), the National Foundation of Australian Women (NFAW) spokesperson, Marie Coleman, commented that “long absences from work play havoc with earning capacity”. Another woman commented “Don’t be fooled about maternity leave, paid or unpaid, making it easier for families. Sure, the money helps but the mentality of the workforce is still the same and needs changing. In big corporations like law, accounting, banks, etc, once you leave to have a baby that’s the end of your career.” Click here to read the excellent comparison by NFAW of PPL schemes offered by the different sides of politics.
Fathers are able to take Paid Parental Leave. This may help to change the culture and expectation that only women should sacrifice their career options when having a baby.
Superannuation is not included in the scheme and is also a source of concern to WEL.
CLICK here to read the full report from The Australia Institute.
Almost 50,000 Australian women have applied for the Federal Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme, previous Families Minister Jenny Macklin says. Ms Macklin said 48,286 of them had signed up for the benefit since the scheme became available on January 1, 2011. The scheme offers eligible working parents paid parental leave for up to 18 weeks at the minimum weekly wage of $570. Herald Sun, 8 May 2011.
The previous Federal Sex Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, welcomed the Productivity Commission enquiry into a taxpayer-funded Paid Parental Leave scheme, saying it is high on the agenda for women. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) recommended as a minimum a government-funded 14 week scheme paid at the level of the federal minimum wage.
Commissioner Broderick says that small business should not be adversely impacted by the cost or administrative burden of any scheme, causing disincentives to the employment of women. Also that workforce attachment is critical for women – they bear children, give birth and breastfeed and they can neither recover not breastfeed satisfactorily if they are rushed back to work in order to pay bills.
The International Labor Organisation (ILO) standard is that countries should provide at least 14 weeks of paid parental leave.
An extensive survey on Parental Leave was released by the University of Sydney and the University of Queensland. CLICK here to read the report, which highlights the importance of extending paid leave provisions.
The Submission to the Productivity Commission by Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia is Submission No. 111 in the Productivity Commission website www.pc.gov.au/inquiry/parentalsupport. WEL appeared before the Productivity Commission in Sydney.
Visit http://www.apo.org.au/webboard/comment_results.chtml?filename_num=266750. This article “Blind to Gender?” by Canberra academic and WEL member, Marian Sawer, in the Australian Policy Online website, presents the compelling case for Paid Parental Leave.