In a piece of good news for working parents, after years of union campaigning, the Albanese Government has committed to expand access to Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks after years of union campaigning.
Our current paid parental leave scheme is one of the worst in the developed world and women have been left to shoulder the load.
In the first five years of parenthood, the earnings of working women fall by 55 per cent on average. Five years is no minor glitch. The lack of income leads to women retiring with far less superannuation than men, often into poverty.
Australian unions have won improvements in paid parental leave for decades and the government’s announcement is another great step towards the support that parents need.
|Current scheme||Expanded scheme (full implementation in 2026)|
|18 weeks for the “primary carer”, two weeks of “Dad and partner pay”||26 weeks|
|First 12 weeks must be taken in one block, final six weeks are fully flexible||Fully flexible|
|Eligibility based on an Individual Income Test ($156k)||The Individual Income Test is complemented with a Family Income Test ($350k). Parents have to satisfy only one to be eligible.|
Although these changes go a long way in balancing out the care load, there are aspects of the Paid Parental Leave scheme that still place a burden on working parents.
The expanded scheme will be paid at the National Minimum wage – which is around half of median earnings – and with no superannuation payments.
Because women are already paid less than men on average, there is a disincentive for men to take the leave. Working women have endured a gender pay gap and the pressure to put their career on hold for long enough.
How we can bargain for better paid parental leave
It is important to remember that the information above is about the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave scheme. Depending on your workplace, you may already have access to even better parental leave benefits.
Many Enterprise Bargaining Agreements have paid parental leave that has already expanded beyond these boundaries, offering parental leave schemes with more weeks and higher pay for workers at unionised workplaces.
We want to make sure all Australian workers are able to bargain strong agreements – whether it be to lift pay, expand leave options or provide pathways for casuals to stable work.
Our work laws have dragged behind and our wages have too.
To allow all workers to have a fair deal at work, we need to update our laws to keep up with our modern-day workplaces.