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Balancing paid work and family responsibilities


Successfully balancing paid work with family responsibilities remains a major challenge for a large number of Australians. With women continuing to carry the majority of Australia’s unpaid caring work, creating workplaces that support women and men to balance paid work and share caring responsibilities is critical to achieving gender equality.

Australia’s Paid Parental Leave Scheme

Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme commenced on 1 January 2011. The scheme provides eligible employees with up to 18 weeks of Parental Leave Pay at the Federal Minimum Wage, which is around $570 a week (as at June 2010).

In addition the government has committed to providing two weeks' paid paternity leave for fathers from July 2012.

For more information on the scheme, see the Government’s Paid Parental Leave Guide or go to the Family Assistance Office

Commissioner Broderick’s Work on Paid Parental Leave

Commissioner Broderick played an instrumental role in the development of the PPL scheme, building on the important work done by previous Sex Discrimination Commissioners who had developed a model for a national PPL scheme. The Australian Human Rights Commission made a submission to the Productivity Commission advocating the introduction of a national PPL scheme and Commissioner Broderick provided verbal information at a Productivity Commission hearing.

Once the Paid Parental Leave Bill had been introduced into Parliament, the Bill was referred to the Senate Community Affairs Committee. The Australian Human Rights Commission made a submission and Commissioner Broderick appeared before this Committee.

While the national PPL scheme is a welcome first step, Commissioner Broderick will continue to lobby for improvements, including:

  • superannuation on paid leave
  • a minimum of two weeks paid leave for fathers and other supporting parents
  • over time a full year of paid parental leave that can be shared between parents, to ensure that children receive the care they need at this important early stage
  • within the full year of paid parental leave, a minimum of four weeks paid leave for fathers and supporting parents, available on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis, to enable them to be involved in caring during the first year of their child’s life
  • leave paid at the rate of at least two thirds of income, so that more families can afford to take the leave.

What is Commissioner Broderick’s plan for balancing work and family responsibilities?

As well as lobbying for improvements to the Paid Parental Leave scheme, Commissioner Broderick contributed to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into the Effectiveness of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984

The Senate Committee has tabled its final report on 1 March 2011. In its report the Committee commented on amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act which would establish breastfeeding as a separate ground of discrimination and broaden the prohibition on discrimination on the ground of family responsibilities.

For more information about the Inquiry and the amendments, go to ‘Laws to address sex discrimination and promote gender equality

Commissioner Broderick will continue to challenge the way Australians think about work and family balance by promoting the value of family friendly work practices, such as flexible working arrangements and job re-design.   

One of the ways she is doing this is through the current research project on Valuing Unpaid Care.  This significant and innovative research, which will be launched later in 2012, will:

  • identify models for reforms that will properly recognise and compensate those who undertake unpaid caring work,
  • inform evidence-based development of employment and retirement income strategies (e.g. workplace entitlements, flexible workplaces, superannuation reforms); and
  • provide valuable information for policy and law-makers, academics and other opinion makers.

More information on the project can be found here:


Recent speeches and media

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