Feature Article - Spotlight on Parental Leave
This article was published in the April 2003 issue of Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0).
In recent years there has been growing interest in the issue of access to paid parental leave and the length of time before women return to work after the birth of a child. A range of data related to these issues is currently available from the Labour Force Supplementary Survey Career Experience, Australia (cat. no. 6254.0). The Career Experience Survey was first conducted in February 1993. The results from the November 2002 survey will be available towards the middle of 2003.
The Career Experience Survey collects data on the duration of leave and type of leave taken by employees (both male and female) with children under six years of age who took a break from work when their youngest child was born. The survey population is limited to persons who were employees in their main job at the time of the survey.
Selected findings from the November 1998 survey are highlighted below. Data relating to this analysis are published in table 13 of Career Experience, Australia (cat. no. 6254.0) or are available on request.
TYPE OF BREAK TAKEN
The following table summarises the types of break taken by current employees with children under six years of age who took a break when their youngest child was born. It excludes persons who have not returned to work after their youngest child was born, either because they ceased work and have not returned, or because they are currently still on leave.
Employees(a), Type of break taken when youngest child was born—November 1998
|Paid leave only|
|Parental leave only|
|Recreation or holiday|
|Sick or carer's|
|Unpaid leave only|
|Parental leave only|
|Leave without pay|
|Combination of leave types or other arrangements|
|* estimate is subject to sampling variability too high for most practical purposes|
|(a) Current employees with children under six years of age who took a break when their youngest child was born. Excludes persons currently away from work.|
|Source: Career Experience, Australia (cat. no. 6254.0).|
In November 1998, there were 692,200 employees with children under six years of age who took a break when their youngest child was born. Over half (56%) of the employees who took a break when their youngest child was born took paid leave only. However, the proportion of men taking paid leave only (82%) was much higher than the proportion of women taking paid leave only (16%).
Women were more likely than men to take unpaid leave only (43% compared with 23%) or a combination of types of leave (23% compared with 6%). They were also more likely to cease work, that is, leave their job (18% compared with 1%).
In November 1998, just over one-quarter (27%) of employees with children under six years who took a break when their youngest child was born used parental leave only. More than half (57%) of the parental leave taken was unpaid, while 32% of women used unpaid parental leave only. A further 14% of women used paid parental leave only. About 15% of males used either paid parental leave only (10%), or unpaid parental leave only (5%), when their youngest child was born.
DURATION OF LEAVE
The type of leave taken by men and women is in part associated with the length of leave taken. In November 1998, 96% of current male employees who had taken a break when their youngest child was born were away from work for less than six weeks. This absence was generally taken as paid recreation/holiday leave or paid parental leave. In contrast, only about 8% of current female employees had taken a break of less than six weeks when their youngest child was born.
Employees(a): Females who took a break when youngest child born, Duration and type of break taken — November 1998
Since women generally took longer breaks than men when their youngest child was born, they were more likely to have taken unpaid leave or ceased work. The majority (57%) of current female employees who had taken a break when their youngest child was born were away from work for six months or more. The most common type of leave taken by these women was unpaid leave only (41%), and nearly one-quarter (24%) of them ceased work for the period.
ACCESS TO PAID PARENTAL LEAVE
Information on entitlement to paid maternity/paternity leave was collected for the first time in the 2002 Survey of Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership. This showed that, in August 2002, 30.3% of female employees and 18.8% of male employees were entitled to paid maternity/paternity leave in their main job. For more information on this survey, see the Recent Releases section in this issue, or the publication Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, Australia (cat. no. 6310.0). The new data item will also be available in future from some other supplementary surveys, including Career Experience and Working Arrangements.