Key Terms

Parental Leave: Leading practice organisations use the gender-neutral term ‘parental leave’ to refer to all leave (paid or unpaid) taken by new parents whether for the birth of a child, adoption or after a stillbirth.

(Please note, however, that employees who have experienced stillbirth may not want to use this language. Their personal preferences should be respected).

New Parents: Following Advancing Parental Leave Equality Network’s (APLEN) recommended approach, where possible we refer to ‘new parents’ rather than ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carers. A number of government departments continue to use ‘primary’ and ‘secondary carers’, respectively, to describe a parent who is at home with a child, and a parent in the workforce. Feedback from parents, particularly new dads, is that the terms primary and secondary suggest that parents who are at work are less interested and involved in care for their children. The phrase ‘new parents’ normalises care by both parents reflects the realities of care in working families.

A note on binary language: DCA is committed to inclusive language at work – that is, language that is respectful, accurate, and relevant in the workplace. At the same time, we know that what constitutes inclusive language is an evolving discussion and one characterised by multiple views. DCA recognises that gender does not only exist in binary categories and that many people do not identify or fit comfortably with these labels. We acknowledge that there are people whose experiences and identities cannot be captured by this binary language. At DCA we aim to use language that includes, and addresses marginalisation of, all genders where possible. However, this resource sometimes uses binary language. Gendered terms are sometimes used in the legislation we are discussing. Furthermore, binary language is sometimes necessary to convey the gendered nature and dynamics of society, and the very real effects these categories can have on people’s lives.  

Australia’s parental leave system needs reform

Many DCA members are leading the way when it comes to parental leave and our goal is to support our members to implement leading practice parental leave schemes. However, we also believe that the government-funded scheme needs reform. While progress is being made in terms of the number of organisations offering employer-paid parental leave, many Australian parents still miss out. Many working parents only have access to the government-funded scheme or have no access to parental leave at all. Further, Australia’s government-funded paid parental leave scheme has been named one of the least generous in the OECD (See RMIT ABC Fact Check, Does Australia have one of the least generous paid parental leave schemes in the OECD?).

DCA believes that the government should support a government-funded parental leave scheme that:

  • Is flexible
  • Is gender-neutral
  • Promotes shared care, i.e. it does not distinguish between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carers
  • Encourages shared care through ‘use it or lose it’ provisions to encourage men to take leave instead of transferring it to their partner
  • Attracts the superannuation guarantee.

We would also like to see this supported by a commitment to break down the stigma and encourages men to take more parental leave.  

These reforms must be backed up by high quality, accessible and affordable childcare that further enables women to participate in the workforce and thrive at work.  

Other organisations calling for reform to parental leave include:

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