Australia Could Do Better For New Dads Says Report

Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to supporting men to be involved fathers, according to new report for the Parents At Work campaign.

Our experiences of fatherhood are one of the key social factors that shape men’s health (see our Framework For A Healthier Future) and “The System” plays a significant role in shaping men’s experiences of being a dad.

According to Parents At Work, dads want to be more involved in their children's lives and employers can do more to help dads balance work and family. The case for change is outlined in a White Paper called "Advancing Parental Leave Equality and Introducing Shared Care in Australia". Some of the papers' key arguments are outlined below.

About Parents At Work

Parents at Work provides working parent education programs and campaigns for workplaces and communities to support fathers to share care of their children

Introduction 

  • Australia’s approach to Paid Parental Leave (PPL) requires a rethink
  • Dads sharing care is essential to achieving/eliminating gender quality
  • Australia’s parental leave policies are outdated and lag OECD nations
  • Mums and Dads need equal access to leave
  • We need move from notion of primary/secondary carer model to a model of shared parenting
  • Government, policy makers and employers all have a role to play
  • Reform will benefits employers, employees and families

Australian Fathers Are Not Taking Parental Leave

  • 95% of primary leave takers are mums. Just 1 in 20 dads take primary parental leave.
  • 85% of fathers take less than 4 weeks leave
  • In the private sector, less than 3 out of 10 employees who take parental leave are men
  • Take up of leave by fathers is low by global standards
  • Overseas, parental leave take up increases when entitlements are generous and flexible (Australia’s system is neither generous nor flexible)

What are working parents entitled to?

  • Australia’s PPL scheme is the least generous amongst OECD countries, offering 7.6 weeks FTE pay, compared to 39 weeks in the UK.
  • It splits mums and dads into primary and secondary carers
  • Primary carers (95% mums) get 18 weeks pay
  • Secondary carers (mostly dads) get 2 weeks “Dad and Partner” Pay
  • 60% of private sector employers do not offer leave for dads
  • The 40% of employers who do offer dads leave, provide seven times more leave to mums

Men want to be more involved with their children

  • Men want to be more involved in the lives of their children.
  • Three in four dads say they would have liked to take additional leave
  • Over half of dads don’t take more leave because they can’t afford it
  • Dads who struggle with combining work and care report less warm, consistent interactions with their children
  • Supporting men to balance work and family life is good for dads, their partners and children
  • Dads want to be more involved and employers can help make that happen

Learning from leading global practice

  • Paid leave for dads can significantly increase men’s involvement in care work and promote gender equity
  • Swiss study found making parental leave available to both parents fosters parental involvement and enables more shared care
  • Norwegian study found that 10 weeks of paid leave for dads reduces mums time away from work and promotes parents sharing of paid and unpaid work
  • Sweden give parents 480 days of parental leave to share flexibly with each parent entitled to a minimum of three months leave on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. Men in Sweden take a quarter of all parental leave.

The Business Case For Shared Care

  • Many employers report that the commercial benefits of providing paid parental leave outweigh the costs
  • Benefits include retention of talent and less staff turnover resulting in lower recruitment and training costs
  • Women who take paid leave more likely to be in the workforce in a year
  • Employers that offer paid family leave report increased productivity
  • PPL is increasingly seen as a way to reinforce company values and can attracts positive publicity

What Best Practice PPL Looks Like

  • They give women and men equal access to the same parental leave provisions. They don’t define parents as ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ carers or assume mum are the main carers.
  • Non-transferable quotas, known as ‘use it or lose it’ provisions or ‘fathers’ quotas’, are one of the most important factors in supporting men’s uptake of leave and shared parenting. In Iceland, fathers averaged 39 days of leave in 2001 and after the fathers’ quota was instituted in 2008 this rose to 103 days.
  • To support men’s uptake of leave, PPL must be adequately paid. When it is not paid adequately, many dads cannot afford to take it. In Estonia the uptake of leave among eligible fathers increased from 14% in 2007 to 50% in 2008 after paternity leave benefits were increased to 100% of previous earnings.
  • It is flexible and allows parents to take PPL in a manner that best suits their circumstances
  • It is adequate in length for each parent. The European Union recommends 16 weeks.
  • It is actively encouraged and incentivised and supported by an organisational culture that encourages the uptake of leave among men.
  • To be successfully implemented and accessed by fathers in a manner that promotes shared care, parental leave policies must be equal, generous, flexible and supported.

 Conclusion

  • Australia can do more to give men and women equal opportunities to share parenting
  • Employers can do more to promote men and women as equal carers
  • Supporting new dads to spend more time at home can promote greater gender equality at work

FURTHER READING

 

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