Women today are told that they can and should seamlessly maintain a perfect balance of work and family life. But our current paid parental leave framework tells us that motherhood is a thankless job in many ways.
Childcare and domestic labour often fall primarily on women, who are finding it increasingly challenging to keep up an impossible juggling act. Outside of working hours, mothers are taking on hours of unpaid labour at home, leading to the ‘gender burnout gap’. It is hardly surprising that mothers are exhausted and disillusioned at work when their supposed ‘down time’ is spent caring for children and attending to domestic tasks.
For many women, alleviating this burden through childcare is not a viable option. Wages regularly fall too short of childcare costs. As a result, working mothers often need to take leave (paid or unpaid) to care for their children, or leave the workforce altogether.
Parental leave also contributes to the gender superannuation gap. This is because paid parental leave remains the only form of leave in Australia that does not come with superannuation payments. The result? Women retire with an average of 47 per cent less super than men.
If working women require more leave to care for their children than what is allocated, it comes out of their own pockets. Without a system that properly supports mothers, women will always lag financially behind their male counterparts.
How we work and what our families look like have evolved over time. But while these important facets to our lives have changed drastically, the laws covering work and workers have not kept up.
The inadequacy of Australia’s paid parental leave scheme has been identified as a key barrier for working women in the ACTU’s recent report on ‘Delivering Equity for Women at Work’.
To improve conditions for working women and close the gender pay gap, our paid parental leave legislation needs to be reformed. The key recommendations to increase Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave include:
- Expand to 26 weeks – up to 52 weeks by 2030 – with incentives for shared parenting.
- Replace the categories of “primary” and “secondary” carer, with a common category of “parent”.
- Pay the leave at the level of a replacement wage or the full time national minimum wage (whichever is higher).
- Pay superannuation with the leave.
- Ensure workers can access Parental Leave entitlements.
- Prevent discrimination against parents who seek to return to work.
While workers in unions continue to push for these changes, by joining your union, you have almost two million people alongside you to protect and strengthen your rights as a working parent.
We need a parental leave system that supports working parents