Big business executives are calling on the government to support working parents by giving men the opportunity to take more time off work and share more responsibility at home to assist women in the workforce.

At Parliament House in Canberra yesterday, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) called for "concerted action" to make changes to Australia's paid parental leave scheme, including extended government-funded time off of up to 26 weeks "that would be shared between both parties".

They labelled Australia's current agreements under the system "disproportionate" and called for fathers to have the opportunity to "do more share of the childcare in order to even the burden".

Currently, over 90 per cent of paid parental leave is taken by women or the primary carer.

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Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott. Picture: Gary Ramage
Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott. Picture: Gary Ramage

Under the paid parental leave scheme, eligible parents receive up to 18 weeks' paid time off at the national minimum wage. The rate is $150.78 per day before tax.

Currently, "Dad and Partner Pay" under the paid parental leave scheme provides working fathers with up to two weeks of government-funded pay at minimum wage, which lands at around $719 a week (before tax).

The total couples receive from both payments can't be more than 18 weeks.

The BCA initially wants the 18 weeks extended to 20 weeks for both mother and father, rising to 26 weeks over the next eight years.

To get more dads involved at home, couples could be rewarded with an extra two weeks off if they split the time off evenly.

"We would like to see complete flexibility in the ability of both parents to access childcare, parental leave," national chairman of KPMG Australia Alison Kitchen said on Wednesday.

The BCA sent a number of policy suggestions in a submission to Treasury announcing its priorities for the Australian economy ahead of the federal budget in May.

In one of its major priorities, Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the BCA, called for the Morrison government to focus on getting women back to work.

Ms Westacott called for "a very concerted action to get women to participate in the workforce by changing our childcare system to remove the cliffs and disincentives that make it hard for people to work and get the childcare subsidy."

"All of these things are about a stronger country, set up for the future, better jobs, more people working with higher pay," she said.

 

Coca-Cola Amatil Group managing director Alison Watkins, Business Council president Tim Reed, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott and KPMG national chairman Alison Kitchen. Picture: Gary Ramage
Coca-Cola Amatil Group managing director Alison Watkins, Business Council president Tim Reed, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott and KPMG national chairman Alison Kitchen. Picture: Gary Ramage

Ms Kitchen said early in the pandemic, "women faced more job losses and greater economic uncertainty than the general population and we know throughout the pandemic that women were a disproportionately of the carers of children, homeschooling, childcare".

She claimed the current scheme is "disproportionately and overwhelmingly currently taken by women" and wants the government "to increase participation by both parents and importantly to create a structural incentive for the second parent to do more share of the childcare in order to even the burden and again create genuine opportunities for women to participate more equally in the workforce".

Ms Kitchen said that while figures of women returning to work since the pandemic were optimistic, she called on the government to "create a step change in childcare to remove some of the genuine inequities and barriers within the existing childcare system which stopped women from participating or stopped them from increasing their hours.

"It's very important that we all work on gender participation to remove the many ways in which women are structurally economically disadvantaged in this country."

 

 

Originally published as Major move could change how men work