Couples who split caring responsibilities could be paid a bonus under a plan to boost gender balance in Australia's paid parental leave scheme.
Consulting firm KPMG has proposed adding gender equality principles to the taxpayer-funded scheme to help address the entrenched imbalance between men and women and boost female economic participation.
The firm wants more weeks of paid leave to be made available, which could be divided more equally, and bonus weeks where parents are sharing responsibilities.
The existing system provides 20 weeks paid at the minimum wage - 18 weeks usually paid to the mother, and two weeks generally paid to the father.
"Australia needs a system which encourages parental equality from day one," KPMG chair Alison Kitchen said.
"The current PPL scheme does not do this and is based on a traditional 'primary carer/secondary carer' model where all applications for primary care default to the birth mother."
KPMG is proposing a scheme where two parents would be allocated 20 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child, with a maximum of 18 weeks for either parent.
The number of weeks increases to 26 weeks over six years, rising by two weeks every two years.
KPMG believes this would allow movement towards more equal parental leave without taking away any existing benefit.
It is also proposing an equality supplement, where bonus weeks are awarded to the extent that responsibility for care is shared more equally.
If the nominated carer weeks were allocated evenly - within a range between 45 and 55 per cent - then each parent would receive two additional weeks of leave.
If the leave was split between one-third and two-thirds, then each parent would receive one additional week.
KPMG estimates by the time its proposal was fully implemented, it would cost the government an extra $1.1 billion per year.
It argues the measure would contribute to decreasing the workforce participation gap between men and women, which if halved could deliver a $140 billion lift in living standards over twenty years.
"Under our proposed scheme, flexibility and equality would be the default settings for paid parental leave," Ms Kitchen says.