Stay-at-home-dads should be able to access exactly the same sorts of privileges as stay-at-home mums.

Tony Abbott is rarely considered a friend of the feminist cause.

But he impressed even the most radical feminist when he promised that he would introduce government funded maternity leave during the last election campaign. This week, Tony Abbott has stated that the proposal is to be ‘reviewed’ as a result of budget pressures.

The original proposal, available on the Liberal Party Website, provides that:

“The Coalition’s scheme will provide mothers with 26 weeks of paid parental leave, at their actual wage or the national minimum wage (whichever is greater), plus superannuation. In contrast, Labor’s parental leave scheme is paid at 18 weeks minimum wage.”

Note: the “scheme will provide mothers with 26 weeks of parental leave”

“Under the Coalition’s scheme, women on average salaries will be the big winners.
The Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme will result in a woman earning the average full time salary of around $65,000 receiving $32,500 – and they will be around $21,300 better off under the Coalition’s scheme relative to Labor’s scheme.”

The scheme has been attacked from both sides of politics, both for being economically unfeasible, and for failing to include childcare options after women return to work. But absent from public debate, is a critical discussion surrounding the gendered nature of the policy.
The original policy allows the following benefits for fathers:

“Under our scheme, fathers will be eligible for two weeks out of the 26 weeks for dedicated parental leave at their actual wage or the national minimum wage (whichever is greater), plus superannuation. “

Fathers are eligible for two weeks leave, Only.

There is a growing army of ‘stay-at-home’ dads taking on the role of primary caregiver in Australia. There are also many families that do not have ‘mothers’ to take maternity leave, read: gay couples with children. The conversation surrounding the scheme does not account for the diversity of modern family life.

Parental leave should be gender neutral. Regardless of how it is ultimately calibrated, it should be up to the individual parents to decide which partner takes on the role of primary caregiver and therefore attracts the relevant benefits.

In her book, The Wife Drought, Annabel Crabbe argues that fathers must also be encouraged to pursue work arrangements that accommodate caregiving responsibilities.

This is essential if women with career aspirations are to be able to participate fully in the workplace. It is also important to recognize that blokes can – and should be able to – take on primary caregiving responsibilities if this is their will. How can they do this, if they are excluded from caregiving benefits under the new parental leave reforms?

Stay-at-home-dads should be able to access exactly the same sorts of privileges as stay-at-home mums.