Paid parental leave is a key work place issue. It speaks not only to the hotly debated gender pay gap, but to the physical and mental health of caregivers and their children. With the Federal election looming, Professor Lyndall Strazdins speaks to ABC Radio to discuss how the major party policies stack up.
“Australia needs to do more,” says Strazdins. “We are a long way behind in terms of best practise for infant rearing and spending time with the child to establish relationships. Countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark are leading the way on the issue of paid parental leave, and I’d like to see both parties support better policy this election.”
Current government funded parental leave provides 18 weeks at minimum wage. The Coalition have indicated they will allow more flexibility on how this can be taken by permitting the parent to take leave in two blocks, rather than being forced to take it as one. They are proposing an initial block of 12 weeks be taken within the first 12 months, and the remaining six weeks taken at a later time within the child’s first two years.
Labour and the Greens are proposing that parents be eligible for 26 weeks of paid parental leave. They go even further and call for Superannuation to be included in this scheme in a bid to improve women’s Superannuation security.
“What Labour and the Greens are calling for is a step in the right direction,” says Strazdins. “It means that women have support to spend these early months with their babies, and for many this will improve their own health and wellbeing as well as their babies. However Australian fathers also want more time with their babies and children too, and they need specific supports to make this possible. The next step I would like to see are targeted policies for fathers.”
You can listen to the full interview with Professor Strazdins on ABC’s PM here.