Australia to implement paid paternal leave next year

Yesterday, Australian Minister for Families, Community Services, and Indigenous Reform Jenny Macklin made a big announcement: starting in 2013, the Australian government will be providing paid paternal leave so that new fathers can take more time off from work to take care of their kids.

The scheme is clearly designed to make it more culturally normal, as well as more economically feasible, for men to take time away from work.

At the Mummy Blog Mamma Mia, Macklin wrote:

Because we understood how important that time with your newborn is, two years ago our Government introduced Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme.

Since then, more than 200,000 families, many of them people who never before got any paid leaveafter they had a baby, have received government-funded leave.

I’m proud that we’ve been able to make it easier for these families to take time off to spend with their babies.

But we know we can do more.

And we know dads want to do more. While it’s still uncommon for dads to take a year out from work to look after the baby, today’s dads are generally more involved around the home.

However, they’re often doing this on top of their work commitments, and if they want to take any time off after their baby is born it usually involves taking unpaid leave.

We’ll be providing two weeks of dad and partner pay at the national minimum wage, so dads and other partners, such as same-sex couples, can take some time off when their new baby is born.

The scheme is called “Dad and Partner Pay,” and I want to take a moment to remind you that language matters. It’s for dads and partners. And, it’s pay. It’s not leave, or paid leave. It’s not a subsidy. It’s pay. That framing makes a big difference, and I think it’s going to make men more likely to take advantage of it than they might otherwise be.

Dad and Partner Pay only lasts two weeks, and it’s at the national minimum wage, which is $606 a week before tax. But hot damn, it’s a start. And it’s leaps and bounds ahead of the US, where the government doesn’t even provide leave for new mothers. The Australian government gives primary carers – usually mothers – eighteen weeks of leave at minimum wage, a relatively new policy.

I have two things to say. Firstly, good on you, Australia. And secondly, get it together, America.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/juliewashere88/ Julie

    Better idea: Get rid of maternity and paternity leave all together. Employees should use their paid vacation time, for whatever reason they’re taking off. Otherwise you’re either discriminating against people who aren’t parents, or, yes, accepting a public subsity for a private action (which, presumably, the public doesn’t get any say in.)