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.