(This is an extract of the full submission. Please contact Families Australia to request a copy of the full version)
Families Australia urges the Productivity Commission to consider parental leave as one component of a continuum of supports needed to allow both parents in working families to combine work and family responsibilities.
Australia should leapfrog past solutions for the 20th Century that assume combining work and family responsibilities is primarily a women’s issue, and design a parental leave scheme suited to the 21st Century.
Such a system would provide at least 14 weeks, but ideally 24 weeks, of paid parental leave following birth, access to unpaid leave for up to two years to be used by either parent, the right to request part time work by either parent and ongoing parental leave for emergency care.
The system would need to be designed to deal with differences in parents’ earning power (in most instances fathers as against mothers) and job security and compensate families for the real cost of wages foregone, if families are to be enabled to make genuine choices with regard to sharing work and family responsibilities.
In such a system, parents could be supported to share the full time care of a new infant in his/her first year of life, initially together and then in substitution for one another, and for each parent to work reduced hours during the child’s preschool years, topping and tailing child care and preschool arrangements to a graduated extent. For such a continuum of supports to be feasible, employers would need to be willing to offer much more flexible hours and to support the secure employment and career advancement of both men and women who take time away for family work.