the lip crew on paid parental leave
Fun fact: Since the Australian Labor Government introduced its paid parental leave scheme just over two years ago, 300,000 women – at a rate of about 10,000 a month – have accepted the 18-week minimum-wage payment. Recent data suggests that fewer than 20 fathers a month have taken up the leave. But is anyone surprised?
‘Although the issue of paid parental leave has been rightfully framed as a reproductive and feminist issue, I think it’s also important to consider it in the context of labour rights. The reluctance of so many businesses to grant women and men time to be with their babies is a reflection of capitalist values. I am not an anti-capitalist, at all. But I am against those who place so little value in protecting the physical, mental and emotional health of new parents. It’s not enough to offer unpaid parental leave; what kind of choice is that for parents who can’t afford to take time off work? It’s also illogical to me that companies would expect productivity, creativity and company loyalty from people who are running on little sleep or are worried about what they might be missing because they need to feed their family. And if we’re going to redefine the role of fathers in their kids’ early years, we need to make sure men are given the same options without the stigma of taking on a “woman’s job”.’ – Shannon Clarke, Writer
‘Paid parental leave is important and helpful but what really needs to change is the corporate workplace. The traditional forty hour week is not conducive to raising families, and it’s almost always women whose careers suffer. We need flexible working hours, transparent pay schemes, support for part time and job sharing, onsite childcare, and more opportunities for parents to work from home. Without these kinds of structural changes it’s hard to see how eighteen weeks’ worth of minimum wage can do much to help.’ – Frances Chapman, Writer
‘Here I sit astride the fence on this topic and perhaps had I sat here before I got pregnant some nineteen years and ten months, less one day ago, I wouldn’t care a great deal about paid parental leave at all in much the way that Generation Y are accused of not being concerned about politics. It doesn’t concern me directly, but it concerns me as a citizen nonetheless.
Look, it’s a tough old world out there. Families are struggling to pay mortgages, put fuel in their cars, and put food on the table each night. Generally it takes two incomes to even get a home loan these days let alone service the repayments. Then she gets pregnant and suddenly the great Australian dream of home ownership is put into jeopardy.
Media stories abound of women who keep their pregnancies a secret for fear of being let go from their job, others can’t find a job simply for the reason that they are of child producing age and employers are not willing, and sometimes are not capable, of paying parental leave and a temporary worker at the same time. It should not be an employment stigma to be pregnant, to wish to be pregnant or to be a parent.
Women deserve to have their jobs held open for them to return to however I am not sure that I agree with paid parental leave being fully funded by the employer. Perhaps there needs to be an employment law whereby all employees of a certain age, say 18 to 34, put a proportion of their wages into a fund for parental leave. This might be refundable to the employee upon reaching 35 if not used beforehand. I suggest this law be applicable to both male and female employees as it takes both genders to make babies. Employers could be encouraged to match the fund and given tax offsets as a sweetener.
It takes more than two to tango in 2013. Having children and jobs is a ménage à trios between mum, dad and income.’ – Cas Allen, Writer
‘If you haven’t heard the proposed policies for Paid Parental Leave, go to this helpful SBS article. PPL is exciting. Do you know why? Because our language is changing. From maternity leave to parental leave; our words indicate our perceptions. This shift symbolises a greater societal change, one that no longer sees Dad as the only income earner and Mum as the angel of the home.
In many ways, we continue to believe that mothers are more responsible for their children. Watch any ads on TV that depict school drop-offs, nappies, afternoon snack time. Keep an eye out for how parenting is portrayed in films and television shows too; it’s representative of wider society. Entrenched gender roles live on.
Within PPL, couples can name fathers as “primary carer”, leaving mothers to return to work (although health organisations recommend breastfeeding and bonding with newborns for 6 months), and dads looking after the little one.
The policy supports families’ decisions that may be seen as ‘unconventional’. It allows room for the changing gender roles in our culture and is another step towards equality.’ – Lou Heinrich, Writer
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