Thursday, 24 July 2014

Paid maternity leave

Why Mr Abbotts paid maternity scheme is so terribly wrong.

I thought I would start my blog with something that has been on my mind for a while.
Paid maternity leave.
I would like to preface this by saying that as I am currently a stay at home mum of two (and will likely not have any further children) I will not directly benefit from this package and will when I re-enter the workplace have to pay for it, so if you may interpret this as sour grapes if you wish.

As a mum who was in a highly educated and paid profession prior to getting pregnant, I was the person that this scheme was aimed at and my former colleagues and friends will be the ones that see the most benefits, however I cannot support it for a few reasons.
1) The scheme reeks of sexism
Why is it a paid maternity leave? What is it about men that makes them incapable of looking after children? It should be made very clear that either parent can claim in this scheme. While there are more stay at home mums, stay at home Dads exist and do an excellent job. I have taken a couple of work contracts over the past couple of years while my son has been little. During that time my husband and I switched roles and he was the stay at home Dad. And guess what. He was very good at it. Full stop. And in some ways he was better than me (he always sent me to work with a packed lunch and the house was never cleaner).
2) It is not going to encourage professional women to have children.
The reason professional women have less children and have them later is not because they don't have enough money. They do and most can afford to take 6 months off to look after their child if they so wish. A career can be hard to manage with a child and many see that. Having children can significantly slow career trajectory. Being out of work for 6 months (which is what the scheme requires of women) can completely halt a career. If you factor in loss of promotions I suspect most professional women will be a lot worse off financially after taking the 6 months off.
Getting 50000 for taking 6 months off work will not factor into the decision to have a child for most professional women.
3) It could significantly deter employers from employing women
I know that it is illegal to select a candidate according to gender. But employers do not need to justify every hiring decision.
If you had a choice between two candidates; one who would likely continue to work for you for the next 10 years no trouble, or one who would likely take 2 or three 6 month breaks, over which time you would need to pay them their salary (which then would be returned to you at tax time), keep their job open and hire a temp (likely at a higher cost and they may be less qualified) over that time. Who would you choose?
4) It is horribly unfair to lower income earners.
As a taxpayer why should I pay 5 times more money to a woman on 100000 per year than I pay to someone on 20000 per year? What value am I getting for my money? Will they be a 5 times better mother? I just cannot justify why it can be seen as fair.

So what would help?
1) improvements to child care.
Child care is terribly expensive, and and spaces are limited. There need to be more places and higher subsidies.
2) A scheme that involves fathers.
If you are going to have some sort of paid parental leave scheme it should be freely accessible by both parents.

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