Why is paid parental leave in Australia so short? And can the new government fix it?
In order to spend some quality time with her newborn, Ms Nagpal decided to take a year’s maternity leave, of which only 18 weeks were covered by the federal government’s paid parental leave scheme.
A year ago, their daughter Meenakshi was born via surrogacy. Due to financial pressures, the two had to return to work shortly after exhausting their paid parental leave.
Same-sex couple Vignesh (left) and Andrea Carboni suffered from separation anxiety when they had to send their five-month-old daughter, Meenakshi, to daycare. Credit: Instagram.com/dads.of.meenakshi
“Our daughter was five months old when we had to send her to daycare,” Vignesh, who lives in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney’s south, told SBS News.
“We suffered a lot from separation anxiety…it was a very difficult time for us to adjust.”
How Australia compares to other progressive nations
But even then, Australia lags behind the average, with Australian fathers enjoying just two weeks, compared to 8.7 weeks for the OECD average.
Marion Baird is Professor of Gender and Employment Relations in the discipline of Labor and Organizational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School.
“The system we have right now doesn’t give families a lot of choice,” she said.
In a statement to SBS News, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said Australia’s paid parental leave system is not directly comparable to many other countries because, unlike overseas schemes, parental leave Australia’s paid system is a non-contributory system funded entirely by general tax revenue.
“In contrast, most OECD countries fund parental leave payments through contributory schemes or social insurance models where only people who have contributed can access parental leave payments.”
Reforms to the Australian model have been suggested, but are they enough?
But even this reform will not go far enough to address the challenges facing parents in Australia, Professor Baird pointed out.
“A level of payment at the national minimum wage is generally not sufficient income for a father or the main breadwinner in a household,” she said.