Labor came out today with an addition to their parental leave policy:
The Gillard Labor Government’s Paid Paternity Leave will be government-funded, and will provide eligible working fathers and other partners with two weeks pay at the national minimum wage – currently $570 a week.
The current parental leave plan applies to fathers too but let’s face, if it can’t be shared, at least initially, it is the mother claiming that benefit.
In contrast to the other moves on parental leave, this one has the benefit in that it will not contribute to the problem of gender discrimination in the workplace — although, family-discrimination may be another matter. The issue is, of course, what role the additional payment is playing. I think it puts on the agenda that fathers taking parental leave is an expectation rather than a cost. But don’t think that it is a pure subsidy to parents. A workplace with a father of a newborn does not have as productive a worker. If there was ever a time you wanted your employee to take leave, it is then. Throwing $1114 extra dollars at the issue makes it more likely that employers will make such leave an expected part of the workplace which can go some way towards changing cultural attitudes.
That said, it only applies for households earning less than $150,000 per year. So while you might take paternity leave, your boss has no additional incentive to do so. As the boss sets the employment policies …
Nonetheless, it is a start and is far from perfect economically. Also, I can’t help but thinking that the benefits of this policy might be higher if the payment was contingent on nappy changes. That is, make the payment $80 per nappy change. Now that would have a cultural impact.