As an incentive for working mothers not to drop out of the workforce, the Insurance Australia Group (IAG) is offering double pay for new moms for their first six weeks back from maternity leave. The double-pay incentive is on top of IAG’s 14 weeks paid maternity leave after giving birth or adopting a child, plus an Australian law that either gives parents up to 18 weeks pay at minimum wage or a $5,800 “baby bonus,” whichever is greater. Color me impressed, Aussies.
IAG’s chief executive Mike Wilkins tells Australia’s ABC News the double pay incentive is a result from discussions with employees, in particular women, struggling with how to balance career/family and how to pay for childcare. Given how over half the company’s 10,000 employees are women and roughly 500 go on maternity leave each year, Wilkins said the matter was about retaining fantastic employees rather than seeing them quit or go part-time on account of parenthood, especially if women were leaving because childcare costs were too high. The CEO also said retaining working moms would cut back on the cost of recruitment and training for employees who would otherwise leave. (It’s unclear the company’s stance on paternity leave; a press release on the subject specifies parental leave, but repeatedly uses the word “women.” Clearly the most fair option would be for fathers to have this incentive as a choice, too. If anyone sees more details about this, ping me an email.)
Sounds sensible to me. Beyond sensible. For all the bluster about how America is the best nation on Earth, we are actually one of the worst countries in the world for parental leave and childcare. The U.S. is just one of four countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid time off for new parents. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies over a certain size offer up to 12 weeks of parental leave, without pay, but paid time off varies from company to company. Business leaders claim they shouldn’t be mandated by the government how to deal with the matter and should do it on a case-by-case basis themselves — but in 2012, how many businesses left to their own devices are as generous as IAG in Australia?
Those claims ring hollow to me, because our country’s decidedly anti-family attitude towards parental leave for moms and dads hurts us. Just this morning, NPR aired a segment about discrimination against working moms and interviewed a woman who was fired from her job after she took three days in a row off work to care for a sick kid. Marianne Bullock’s little girl had a stomach virus and was puking so badly she had to go to the ER; Bullock told NPR that her employer, a personal care service, said they would rather hire someone to fill her job who didn’t have a child.
My hope is that President Obama will address parental leave in a second term. A girl can dream, can’t she?
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.
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