An estimated one in four eligible mothers not taking up paid parental leave


An estimated 74% of eligible mothers, and 40% of eligible fathers were taking up government-funded paid parental leave prior to reforms, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

The report linked 2021 Census data with Australian Tax Office data to explore the take-up of Parental Leave Pay (PLP) and Dad and Partner Pay (DAPP) – the government payments to support parents to take time off work to care for their baby. Reforms to the program in 2023 saw the removal of DAPP as a separate payment.

Mothers working in government jobs had the highest uptake of PLP (85%) and those working in small business had the lowest (66%). Fathers who worked for businesses (39%-46%) and state or local government (30%) were most likely to take-up DAPP.

Vulnerable groups had lower levels of take-up of the government payments, including parents with poor English language proficiency, lowest-income parents, parents with disability, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents.

Executive Manager, Families, Society and Lifecourse Research at AIFS, Dr Jennifer Baxter, said it’s important to explore barriers to take-up.

‘Government-funded payments are a critical support for parents without employer-funded leave to look after their baby while staying connected to work,’ Dr Baxter said.

‘We see the importance of the program in the high proportion of mothers who were likely in jobs without employer funded leave using PLP early – like hospitality and small businesses.

‘Without the support of government-funded parental leave, it’s likely that many wouldn’t stay connected to work, and that may lead to long career breaks which makes it harder to re-enter the workforce later,’ Dr Baxter said.

Dr Baxter said monitoring the impacts of the 2023 program reforms in view of the findings will be important.

‘We’d expect take-up by mothers to be similar to the pattern in 2021 – however fathers can now have a share of Paid Parental Leave, rather than their payment being separate. It will be important to see how their take-up changes with this significant policy shift,’ Dr Baxter said.

Fathers can now only receive a share of a parental leave payment if the mother meets the work test (that is, working for 10 of 13 months before the birth or adoption of the child, involving at least 330 hours of paid work – around 1 day per week – and without a break in employment of more than 12 weeks).

The analysis found 7,558 fathers using DAPP in 2021 (around 1 in 10) would not be eligible under the current policy.

The report also highlights very gendered patterns of leave-taking and employment, with women almost twice as likely to take-up the government payments as men.

Another new AIFS report, How mothers and fathers share child care in Australia, adds to that narrative, revealing in 54% of couple families with children under 18, looking after children is always or usually done by the mother, compared to just 5% in which it is always or usually done by the father. In 78% of couple families the ‘mental load’ is always or usually carried by the mother.

Based on the Families in Australia Surveys in 2020 and 2021, the report also shows it is rare for fathers to be the only ones to always or usually look after the children (around 1 in 20 fathers). Even when both parents work full-time hours, child care activities are very gendered, although fathers’ share increases when mothers work full-time.

Both reports are available on AIFS’ website:

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