The Government’s budget proposal to reduce parental leave payments is a retrograde step that will further entrench women’s inequality.
Senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, Ruth Barson, said the announcement calls into question the Government’s commitment to achieving women’s equality in all facets of their lives.
“The Government is not just walking away from its promise to deliver a new and better paid parental leave policy, it’s actually dismantling the existing paid parental policy. It’s a double-insult to Australian women and contradicts the objectives of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,” said Ms Barson.
The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which Australia ratified in 1983, requires that women be given equal opportunity to participate in public life and to have equality with men – including economic equality.
“Equality and adequate parental leave are not some sort of luxuries – they are human rights. The Government has completely failed to recognise the important roles women play in the family, the community and the workplace,” said Ms Barson.
The Government’s announcement will affect approximately’ 80,000 new mums, and is couched as a cost saving measure. It will see almost half of new mothers lose access to the full $11,500 available under the federal government's existing scheme from July 2016.
"The Government has already acknowledged that the current system is inadequate, so to weaken it further is a very regressive step. Both government and business have a responsibility to ensure women's substantive equality and the existing employee and government paid parent schemes were designed to be complimentary," said Ms Barson.
Ms Barson said recognising parenthood as a social function – as a critically important contribution to our community – for which women should not be discriminated against, is a central tenant of international law.
“Women in Australia are already far behind their male counter-parts when it comes to economic equality. Reducing paid parental leave will only make things worse. Women will be more financially dependent on their partners, they will have less economic stability and less independence and flexibility,” said Ms Barson.
For further information or comments, please contact Ruth Barson on 0417 773 037