Mercury (Hobart)

Parental pay a ‘dad day’ boon


NEW parents would be able to take a combined six months off work under a plan to equalise Australia’s existing leave scheme with specific “dad days”.

The Grattan Institute’s proposal, to be released on Monday, would revolution­ise parental leave by providing six weeks for fathers, six weeks for mothers and another 12 weeks to share.

If both parents took their full sixweek allowance, they would receive another two weeks of bonus leave for either parent, in a bid to increase the number of fathers willing and able to take leave when their children are born.

The scheme would add an extra $600m to Australia’s annual $2.4bn taxpayer-funded spend on parental leave, while boosting the economy by $900m a year and adding $30,000 to the average mother’s lifetime earnings.

“Australia currently has one of the least generous parental leave schemes in the developed world,” the Grattan report said.

“This is especially true for fathers. And Australian fathers have been reluctant to take what little leave is available to them.”

Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Mary Wooldridge is pushing for paid parental leave rules to be changed so that it was available equally to mums and dads.

Under existing rules, 18 weeks are paid at the minimum wage to primary carers, and more than 99.5 per cent of people who take up that allowance are mothers. A separate payment for fathers only offers two weeks at the minimum wage.

The Grattan report, authored by the institute’s chief, Danielle Wood, argued its proposal would “send a clear message that shared parenting is encouraged”.

On average, Australian women do two hours more unpaid work per day while men do two hours more paid work, which the institute said was “one of the biggest labour divisions in the developed world”.

It pointed to research which showed the proposed changes would improve the parenting skills of fathers, boost women’s workforce participat­ion, assist the developmen­t of children and increase job and life satisfacti­on for parents.

The institute also recommende­d that parents be able to take leave concurrent­ly or separately, and claim taxpayer-funded payments alongside paid leave from their employers.

It called on the government to apply income tests based on household income, not the primary carer’s income, and to apply work tests individual­ly so the partners of stay-at-home parents were still eligible for leave.

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