WGEA reports mixed progress on support for caring and a decline in paid parental leave support.

The latest WGEA Gender Equality Scorecard 2017 released in November reveals the slow progress being made by Australian employers when it comes to advancing parental leave and providing employees with caring support.

Australia offers the least generous Government funded paid parental leave scheme amongst the OECD nations and it seems employers are less inclined to be willing to close the gap when it comes to topping up their parental leave schemes to provide a better package for parents.  WGEA revealed “that for the second year in a row, the proportion of employers offering non-leave based measures to support employees with caring responsibilities has declined (down 4.4pp over two years to 51.9%)”.

In 2016-17, 45.9% of employers offered paid parental leave for primary carers down from 48% in 2015-16.

However, the most challenging persistent gaps, that don’t seem to budge, is support offered for child care and men’s participation in paid parental leave. According to WGEA “Just 3.4% of employers offer employer-subsidised childcare in 2016-17 (3.1% in the 2015-16 period). Men are still not engaging in accessing primary Paid Parental Leave enough as over 95% of all paid parental leave is still accessed by women.

“It’s a worrying trend to see zero progress on child care and men’s lack of participation in sharing the caring” says Emma Walsh, CEO of Parents At Work, who recently collaborated with the Embassy of Sweden and Australian industry leaders to call for action around improving gender parity when it comes to men and women accessing parental leave.   In Sweden, 25% of men access Paid Parental leave, in Australia men’s participation is just 2%.  Childcare is provided for by the State and is capped at approximately $200AUD per month for up to 5 days care provided for.

“Employers need to consider and understand the link between men taking parental leave and how this helps close the maternal pay gap and what they can do to foster a family friendly workplace that allows both men and women to share the caring, as well as  juggle career and family life as their child grows says Emma Walsh.

“Lack of accessible and affordable child care remains the number one issue plaguing parents returning to work and it seems employers don’t have a solution in place to help ease the burdens for families. And it seems raising children is still a ‘woman’s job’ with men very much seen as the ‘secondary carer’”. Emma Walsh.

Other key take-outs from the WGEA Gender Equality Scorecard 2017
  • There is substantial growth in organisations reporting they have a formal policy and/or strategy to support employees with family and caring responsibilities (up 5.5pp to 62.0%).
  • 67.2% of organisations with 5000+ employees offer Paid Parental Leave, compared with 39.7% of organisations with fewer than 250 employees.
  • Average length of paid primary carer’s leave offered is 10.1 weeks.
  • 39.3% of employers offered paid parental leave for secondary carers (94.8% is utilised by men). Average length of paid secondary carer’s leave offered is 7.3 days.
  • Women were seven times as likely as men to leave the workplace during parental leave. 8.6% of women on parental leave ceased employment (down 1.2pp since 2015-16). 1.2% of men on parental leave ceased employment (down 0.8pp).

Read more from WGEA here.

WGEA have also just released The ‘How to’ Guide to Parental Leave for organisations. It is well worth a read.

By Emma Walsh, CEO, Parents At Work