The AFR asked FlexCareers what we’d like to see in the budget this year. We could have talked about ways to incentivise start-ups (like us!) and their employees, but really what matters most to us, is our community. What could the Government do to better support working parents and families?
Close the Superannuation Gap
Joel McInnes, FlexCareers Co-Founder said, “We would like to see fiscal incentives to close the $120k superannuation gender gap that exists in Australia – and while substantive research in this area is scant, it won’t be as costly as it sounds.
The best way to increase the superannuation balance for women is to remove barriers that prevent them fully participating in the workforce. The majority of primary carers of young children are women, and with the cost of childcare and the structure of the childcare rebate, women returning to work are earning as little as $5 per hour.”
FlexCareers is extremely proud of the work many of our employers are doing with respect to closing the superannuation gap. Viva Energy, who already pay super at 12%, was the first company in Australia to offer all new parents the opportunity to earn superannuation at their full-time salary rate, for up to five years whilst working part-time – read more about it here.
Reduce the burden of childcare costs
“We would also like to see the structure of the childcare rebate changed such that childcare is fully tax deductible for working parents, and not means tested.” Joel continued, “Reducing the effective cost to return to work would encourage more women into the workforce, increasing national GDP by as much as $60b.”
It’s clear that there is plenty of scope to help women get back into work after having kids, let’s hope that the message gets through loud and clear – the current situation just isn’t good enough.
A more balanced approach to parental leave
The Australian Government should take a more balanced approach to parental leave, so that more men are encouraged and supported to take parental leave. It’s been wonderful to see many employers in Australia, take the lead when it comes to parental leave, and we are particularly proud of the innovative approach of some of our employer partners.
Medibank has taken a bold step forward this year by offering all new parents an equal number of weeks paid parental leave at their full salary, regardless of their role in the family unit. General Manager of Talent, Culture and Capability Gemma Saunders said: “We are doing away with the labels of “primary carer” and “secondary carer” completely, and recognising that every parent should have equal opportunity to play an involved and active role in their child’s early years, unrestricted by imposed and outdated definitions of ‘role’ and gender.” You can read more about Medibank’s new parental leave policy here.
In August 2017, Aurecon became the first company in the engineering sector to really beef-up parental leave for partners. The Shared Care scheme at Aurecon offers 14 weeks parental leave, paid at half-pay for all secondary carers.
PwC has been advocating for men to be more involved in their kids early years for some time now. We recently shared the story of Jack Bell, who was able to take 14 weeks paid leave on his full salary, when his wife returned to work part-time.
Whilst it’s amazing to see these companies ate leading the way, it’s essential that the Government steps up and plays it’s part. So far, we are lagging far behind other countries in this respect.
In countries where the Government has structured parental leave in a way that incentivises families to share the load, we are seeing huge success with respect to the number of men taking extended parental leave. Sweden is known for its generous and uniquely structured state parental-leave policy, which allocates 480 days of paid parental leave for each couple welcoming a new child, with 90 of those days being allocated to the Dad on a use-it-or-lose-it basis.
Designed to encourage more men to take on a primary or shared care role in raising the family, the policy is credited with transforming national attitudes to gender and childcare, with men in Sweden now taking 25% of allocated parental leave benefit, compared to 0.5% in the 1970’s.
Nordic countries are also leading the way with gender parity, with Norway, Finland and Sweden joining Iceland to be ranked byWorld Economic Forum (WEF) as four out of the top 5 performing countries, based on as economic opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival. Iceland has been named the world leader for gender equality for nine consecutive years, and recently passed a new law, that will apply to all organisations employing 25 or more people, making it illegal to pay men more than women. New Zealand ranks respectably in 9th place, and Australia lags in 35th place.
FlexCareers is actively working with a number of organisations across Australia to implement policies that address some of these issues for working families, but we need to see our Government drive change.
What would you like to see in the budget that would make a real difference to you and your family? We’d love to hear your thoughts.