Dad days: how more gender-equal parental leave would improve the lives of Australian families

Parental leave Fathers Parenting and guardianship Australia

Few policies deliver both significant social and economic gains. But gender-equal paid parental leave is one of them. That is why so many countries have now embraced such policies. The payoffs of the successful schemes are clear: greater parental satisfaction, improvements in child development, higher rates of workforce participation, and greater economic security for women.

Australia currently has one of the least generous parental leave schemes in the developed world. This is especially true for fathers. And Australian fathers have been reluctant to take what little leave is available to them.

Overseas experience suggests that policies that allow fathers to be more engaged in the early years have lasting impacts on engagement with children as they grow. Greater sharing of unpaid care gives mothers more scope to do paid work, with clear benefits for both them and the country.

This report recommends adding up to six additional weeks leave to the current 20-week paid parental leave allowance. To encourage leave sharing, this would be done through a 6/12/6 structure – six weeks ‘use it or lose it’ provision for each parent, and 12 weeks to share between them as they choose. To supercharge the incentive for parents – especially fathers – to take leave, the authors recommend an additional two weeks of bonus leave, which could be used by either parent if both parents take at least six weeks leave.

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