Australian Company Offering Double Pay to Women Who Return to Work

Much ink has been spilled on this site over the past few months on equal pay, and with good reason. It’s one of the most obvious and tangible manifestations of sexism in society today.

We’ve published a guest post on why we can’t wait for fair pay, and a roundup of good reads for Equal Pay Day earlier this week. We even got the chance to interview the poster child for equal pay, Lilly Ledbetter herself. But we haven’t had the chance to cover something quite so progressive as this: a company in Australia is offering new moms double pay for their first six weeks back after maternity leave.

Cool right? I think so too. Yahoo! News is reporting that the head of Insurance Australia Group (IAG) acknowledges that the policy is generous, but says it is all about “making sure we get quality people coming back to us.” The article also points out that this is in stark contrast to the policies we experience here in the US, citing the United States as “one of just four countries in the world without a national law requiring paid time off for new parents (the other countries are Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland).”

What do you think Feministing? Is this a sustainable model, and something we could rally around? I think promoting and advocating a policy like this has great potential, especially because if we’ve learned anything from the anti-abortion right over the past year or so, it’s that an extreme starting point determines how “moderate” the final outcome will be.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • Sam Lindsay-Levine

    Interesting. I am fully willing to believe that this is cost-neutral if the employees have any serious amount of industry- or company-specific knowledge; hiring processes for such people are very expensive.

    Is it worth noting that the actual announcement states that the policy applies to any employees returning to work after parental leave, not only (as these secondary sources state) women returning to work? I presume that explicit, formalized salary & compensation discrimination based on gender is just as illegal in Australia as it is here in the United States.

    • Lyanna

      How is this cost-neutral? The company has to choose between
      1. hiring a guy who would never go on maternity leave
      2. hiring a woman who would go on paid-leave, then have to double-pay to entice her to come back.
      So saying it is cost neutral is just creative accounting and hiding the deficit in the hiring instead of the double pay.
      The hiring processes for such people are expensive, yes. Which is why companies would not waste it on women who are liable to leave the work force and taking all her company specific experience with her.

      And saying you are “fully willing to believe” just makes you sound like irrational operator who would support anything that aligns with her ideology. If you were a person who would consider a plan based on its merit, you wouldn’t “fully willing to believe” but either say something is cost-neutral based on your analysis of the specific numbers involved or at worst make an estimate of the numbers involved to see it is within the realm of evenness.

  • john

    I don’t think this is the solution or even sustainable. The problem is even though woman are working more they are still responsible for most of the childcare. In essence most woman have 2 full Time jobs. what we need are programs that encourage men and woman to take equal responsibility for childcare. this would help woman get back to the work force faster and the faster parents are able to get back into the workforce the more they could earn. Throwing money at a problem is not going to fix it.

    The CEO said this program is aim at woman, i dare say it kinda discriminates against dads who want paternity leave.

    • Sam Lindsay-Levine

      Despite the somewhat inaccurate secondary reporting, and the fact that it was created specifically to help increase retention of mothers, it does not in practice discriminate against fathers (see my post above).

      What you suggest immediately brings to mind Sweden’s paternity leave which sounds to have been quite transformational. Certainly a solution at the national governmental level has the potential to be more sweepingly effective than solutions at the corporation or individual position level.

      I would be interested to hear from Swedish or German commenters with experience with the system, if we have any. It sounds like their systems are now very popular & effective.

    • honeybee

      What sort of “programs” are going to encourage a better split?

      Shouldn’t we instead simply encourage women to marry or procreate with men who are going to pull their weight? There are lots out there. My spouse is one and most of my friends have spouses who do at least as much child rearing as they do.

      I get upset when I read these tropes because it’s a gross generalization. It happens obviously, I don’t deny it, but that’s why you need to properly vet any potential co-parent before having kids. If he’s not going to pull his weight and that’s a problem for you don’t have kids with him.