Outlining a Progressive Future

Fighting for Paid Parental Leave

In developing news in Australia, the Greens are to introduce legislation into the Senate to set up a Government funded paid parental leave. In an e-mail to supporters, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young wrote:

Women in United Kingdom and Japan have it. Women in Estonia, Sweden, Canada and France have it. But women in Australia still don’t have access to a government-funded paid parental leave scheme. 

We’re closer than ever to getting a paid parental leave scheme. Eighty-two percent of Australians support it. The Productivity Commission says it will be good for women, good for babies and good for the economy. Even Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says it’s time to ‘bite the bullet’ on paid parental leave, but he still hasn’t made a commitment. 

Today I announced that the Greens are taking action on this important issue. I will be introducing a Bill for a government-funded, 26-week paid parental leave scheme – and we need your support to make it law. 

This announcement comes after a long campaign from the union and women’s’ movement to have paid parental leave written into law and is important as it will force the Government to show its hand on whether or not it supports a Government funded paid parental leave. After the election the Rudd Government seemed almost certain that it would adopt a paid parental leave scheme, but after it was not put into the May budget in 2008 and with statements that have seen the Government wavering in its support (apparently due to the Global Financial Crisis), it is now unclear as to whether we will see paid parental leave introduced in 2009.

Why should we be fighting for paid parental leave?

Paid parental leave is an essential component to any industrial relations scheme that has any desire to see the gap between the earnings and opportunities between women and men be bridged. Reports now show that women in Australia potentially earn 1 million dollars less over their lifetime than men. Whilst these figures are due to a mix of reasons (including the continued sexism within the workforce) the issue of childbearing and the sexism that continues to result from this issue is still a major problem. By introducing a paid parental scheme the Government goes someway to reducing this problem. It gives women better opportunities within the workforce and ensures that having a child does not stop women from being able to continue along their desired career path.

The Importance of it being Paid Parental Leave

One of the most important factors of this legislation (and the proposals that I suspect will eventually come from Labor) is that it moves away from paid maternity leave and discusses paid parental leave. Whilst we are never going to change the fact that women will be the ones who are required to be the child bearers, society is now finally questioning the idea that women should be sole person who is responsible for raising a child. By discussing this as paid parental leave rather than paid maternity leave and by giving men the opportunity to access this service to raise children we ensure that we do not revert back wholly to a situation where women are seen as the only ones who should be responsible for raising a child. This creates a fairer system where the parents have the opportunity to discuss and decide on their own how responsibilities should be split, rather than being told that it is the woman’s job to raise the child.

Second to this, introducing paid paternal leave over paid maternal leave creates a fair system for those who don’t fit into the heteronormative ideals of how families should work. By introducing paid paternal leave over paid maternal leave we ensure that those LGBTI couples who have children and those who adopt children are all given the opportunity to ensure that they can be at home to look after their children in their early stages, whilst not being punished in the workforce. 

It is great to see that we are now seeing more and more action on this issue in Australia and I look forward to this legislation or something similar becoming law in the near future. I call on the Government to adopt this legislation in the next budget and take the next step in ensuring that discrimination within the workforce for women and parents is finally put to an end. 



April 29, 2009 - Posted by | Human Rights, Options for a Progressive Future | , ,

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