|Judy Horacek cartoon shows female employee asking |
"I'd like paid maternity..." and employer responding "leave".
I'm going to focus instead on the other big benefit I see from effectively doubling the amount of paid parental leave parents can access (from 14 weeks currently to 26 weeks incrementally). And that is securing a clear role for the parent who wasn't pregnant, starting from the early days.
With the existing scheme partners can split the paid parental leave, as long as the pregnant one was eligible for it. However I imagine that only happens quite rarely, particularly when breastfeeding is the main source of sustenance for the new person. My personal experience has been that it would not have been practical to split paid parental leave in those first few months. It may well be different for others (I hope so!). But extend that period to 6 months and suddenly it becomes a lot more viable for many families to share the leave, and thus share the parenting, and probably the other domestic tasks too. It's also likely to raise the number of men accessing the non-paid parental leave which they've been entitled to take for years. Employers will need to become more open to considering supporting their workers who are parents, regardless of whether they are a mother or a father (or something else entirely).
So often I hear of relationships where the domestic work was pretty even until the couple had kids, and then patriachal archetypes slowly but surely overtake both parents, despite best intentions. If I have to read another article that tells me women do more of the housework and family caring work, on average, than men, even when both partners in a heterosexual relationship work outside the home, I think I may just scream in a non-ladylike fashion.
Just as the initial proposal of paid parental leave sparked some change in the attitude towards parents who work outside the home (and the value of parenting work in general) so this increase could push that conversation further down the line towards something that looks a little bit like equity.
Here's a chance, a real chance, to show actual structural support for more sharing of the caring.