Rethinking Work and Family Policy: The Making and Taking of Parental Leave in Australia
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Baird, Marian; Litwin, Adam Seth
Despite the continued increase in female participation rates, Australia remains one of only two developed nations in the world without a paid maternity leave scheme. While research interest and public policy debate about paid maternity leave entitlements continues, little is known about the actual utilization of the 52 weeks unpaid parental leave that is currently available to all employees. Moreover, research and policy debate on the availability and provision of paid paternity leave has only just begun. This paper argues that, given the gendered nature of employee entitlements, it is time to re-evaluate all aspects of parental leave policy in Australia. Using unique data from a national survey of Australian employees, the paper provides a statistical analysis of the use of unpaid parental leave and the availability of paid maternity leave. The paper models the availability of paid maternity leave to Australian employees as a function of demographic and organizational characteristics, including annual income, union status, and establishment size. A parallel analysis of the likelihood that an individual has used the unpaid parental leave provision is also provided. The results show that the existing unpaid parental leave provision is rarely used and that the current availability of paid maternity leave is inequitable. The paper discusses the conceptual and policy implications of these results and concludes that a re-thinking of parental leave policy in Australia is essential if gender inequities at work and in society are to be addressed.
Australia; parental leave; work and family policy; gender
Required Publisher Statement: © Taylor & Francis. Final version published as: Baird, M., & Litwin, A. S. (2005). Rethinking work and family policy: The making and taking of parental leave in Australia. Applied Clinical Informatics, 17(5), 385-400. doi:10.1080/09540260500238306 Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.