United call to boost paid parental leave

·2-min read

Business representatives, unions and parent advocates are united in calls to reform Australia's paid parental leave scheme.

Submissions to a parliamentary committee looking at work and care in Australia largely focus on the need to increase the scheme entitlements to give mums and dads equal access.

Workers can currently access 20 weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage.

The primary carer, usually the woman, is entitled to take 18 weeks while the secondary carer is entitled to two.

The Business Council of Australia said it was one of the least generous schemes in the OECD.

The average paid parental leave scheme in OECD countries is 50 weeks.

In its submission to the committee, the council said restructuring the scheme to enable and incentivise both parents to share caring responsibilities would help reduce gender pay gaps and benefit the economy.

"(The council) is proposing a model where families will have a choice to determine what suits them best, including providing the opportunity for both parents to ... maintain a consistent attachment to their employer while they have young children," the submission said.

Advocate group The Parenthood has called for the scheme to be increased to 52 weeks with superannuation, to be shared between two parents.

"Compared to global peers, mums in Australia fall behind in work participation after children and never catch up," the submission said.

"This is explained by an inadequate statutory paid parental leave scheme that promotes 'mothers as primary carers' and 'fathers as primary breadwinners'."

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Foundation submitted flexible work arrangements were not benefiting male workers as they should.

Its submission said men were twice as likely as women to have flexible work arrangement requests declined.

It said the threshold for an employer's right to refuse flexible work arrangements should be higher.

The committee will hold its first public hearing of the inquiry on Friday.

It will hear from early childhood, seniors and carers advocates as well as the employment and workplace relations department.