It’s fair to say there’s been a reboot and reinvigorated discussions around the criticality of investing in paid parental leave reform this year from across political divide, industry and community groups. There’s a broad recognition that Australia scores poorly on paid parental leave funding and that we need more fathers incentivised to use it.
The Albanese Government has been swift in communicating its intent to shift the dial by increasing the number of paid weeks offered, lifting the eligibility cap, making it more flexible and removing references to primary and secondary carer labels that encourage both parents to participate in taking the leave, but is it enough?
The need for cross-sector collaboration
Good work and family policy requires both government and employers working together to achieve better outcomes for all working families.
Work life conflict is real and it’s costing our economy and community and it demands renewed focus and attention as we recover from the pandemic. We have a unique opportunity to rethink the way we bridge the work and family divide that we must not squander.
Family friendly policies, such as paid parental leave and flexible work, enable employees – and their families – to combine work and caring responsibilities. They also help employers to attract, engage and retain their employees.
The evidence is clear – accessible and well-funded paid parental leave is crucial if we want people to stay connected to the workforce, but it’s also vital to support the health and wellbeing of women and children and to improve wider gender equality outcomes. And ‘yes’, men DO want access to paid parental leave too.
The Federal Government wants to see the Commonwealth scheme as complementing the work being done by employers.
In a press conference announcement earlier this week, the Federal Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth visited law firm Baker McKenzie [which offers 26 weeks gender-equal flexible paid parental leave including Superannuation] and shared how the Albanese Government’s PPL changes are “catching up” to the investments some employers are already making, and praised the progressive efforts of companies such as Baker McKenzie who are certified as a Family Inclusive Workplace.
Minister Rishworth shared the government’s commitment to encouraging more organisations to adopt family-friendly practices, using the National Work & Family Standards to help benchmark progress and identify areas for improvement so more organisations can be certified as family-inclusive. More importantly, making the case for what can be achieved when focusing on the “investment” that such policies allow, rather than any kind of “deficit” some may focus on when simply looking at raw costs alone.
“The family inclusive workplace is really important work to bring other organisations up to scratch to talk about the benefits– but to talk about it from an investment model, not a deficit model”.
The Hon. Amanda Rishworth MP, Federal Minister for Social Services
Championing Family Friendly Workplaces is an important step forward in enabling more employers to measure the positive and effective investment that comes from embedding great paid parental leave policies and other support mechanisms for working families.
We’re at a pivotal ‘future of work’ juncture in the evolution of the relationship between an employee, their family and their workplace – if we can bridge the business and family divide and better address work and care policy, they’ll be positive consequences that will be sustained for generations to come.
With UN World Children’s Day approaching on Sunday, we need to remember this connection, always. Numerous studies have highlighted the link between paid parental leave for mothers and child and maternal health, while other research shows the link between PPL for fathers and their connection to their children and ability to support at home.
Together with our partner UNICEF Australia, we’re calling on all workplaces across the public and private sectors to assess their current workplace family-friendly policies and practices by being benchmarked as part of the National Work & Family Standards to determine what they can do to be a more family inclusive workplace and ease the rising pressures families face trying to combine their work and caring responsibilities.
Let’s invest in Australia being a family-friendly nation; that’s a place I’d be proud to call home.
First published by Women’s Agenda