Government-funded paid parental leave will be extended, and more pressure placed on fathers to share caring for babies, under an initiative to be unveiled by Anthony Albanese on Saturday.
Parental leave will be lengthened by six weeks, phased in, to total 26 weeks by 2026, with use-it-or-lose-it provisions directed to having fathers undertake a greater part of the early parenting.
Leave will be able to be taken in blocks between periods of work. Single parents will be entitled to the full 26 weeks.
The present scheme is for 18 weeks government-funded leave to care for a newborn. There is a separate “Dad and Partner” payment for two weeks.
The government says it will introduce reforms to modernise the system and improve flexibility from July next year. From July 1 2024 the time will start lengthening, with two extra weeks put on each year until the scheme reaches 26 weeks from July 2026.
The government’s women’s economic equality taskforce, chaired by Sam Mostyn, will advise on details of the model, including what mix of flexible weeks and the use-it-or-lose-it component for each parent are considered best. Details will be in the October 25 budget.
Albanese will formally announce the initiative when he addresses the NSW ALP conference on Saturday morning.
In his speech, an extract of which was released ahead of delivery, Albanese says that, like the government’s child care policy, extending PPL is an economic reform.
“By 2026, every family with a new baby will be able to access a total of six months paid leave, shared between the two parents,” he says.
“We will give families more leave and more flexibility, so people are able to use their weeks in a way that works best for them.
“Our plan will mean more families take up this leave, share in that precious time – and share the caring responsibilities more equally.
“This plan will support dads who want to take time off work to be more involved in those early months.
“It’s a modern policy, for modern families. It delivers more choice, it offers greater security – and it rewards aspiration.”
Albanese says that extended leave was one of the clearest calls that came out of the recent jobs summit.
“Businesses, unions, experts and economists all understand that providing more choice, more support and more flexibility for families and more opportunity for women boosts participation and productivity across the economy.”
He says the government sees this as “the baseline, a national minimum standard.
“We are encouraged that there are already employers across Australia competing to offer working parents the best possible deal. And we want to see more of it.
“Because a parental leave system that empowers the full and equal participation of women will be good for business, good for families and good for the economy.”
Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said that “having a child shouldn’t be an economic barrier for families or indeed act as a handbrake on the broader economy.
“Right now, this burden is borne disproportionately by women but we know that good women’s policy is also good economic policy and this decision is evidence of that.”
Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said: “This will benefit mums, it will benefit dads, it’s good for children, and it will be a huge boost to the economy.
“We know that treating parenting as an equal partnership helps to improve gender equality.”