ACTU calls for parental leave reform to go further

Plans to extend paid parental leave have been welcomed as a major advance for working women, but unions say the changes don’t go far enough.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Saturday announced the government would boost paid parental leave from 18 to 26 weeks in a staged plan to be rolled out by July 2026.

Eventually, all families with a new baby will be able to access six months of leave shared between two parents and paid at the rate of the national minimum wage.

Single parents will be able to access the full 26 weeks, while the leave will be made more flexible with parents able to take it in blocks between periods of paid work.

Mr Albanese said the policy change would support families and provide them with greater choice.

“We know that investing in parental leave benefits our economy,” he said.

“It is good for productivity and participation, it’s good for families and it’s good for our country as a whole.”

Further details of the parental leave plan will be announced in the budget later this month.

‘Great step forward’

Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the extended scheme would help boost the economy by making it easier for parents to stay in the workforce.

“We’ve long called for reform to the paid parental leave system because providing adequate time off to new parents and encouraging equal sharing of care is good for the economy and good for families,” she said.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said the more generous leave scheme was a great step forward for parents.

“Paid parental leave should be flexible and available to all parents, and this new scheme is a big improvement in this regard,” she said.

But Ms O’Neil said the union body would continue its campaign for parental leave to be paid at workers’ full replacement wage including superannuation.

The ACTU noted Australia currently had one of the lowest-paid parental leave schemes in the world and poor levels of shared parenting, leaving women unfairly carrying the burden of caring for children.

Mr Albanese previously said he wanted superannuation to be attached to paid parental leave but it wouldn’t happen during Labor’s first term in government due to budget constraints.


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