Australian employers paying up for mums and dads on parental leave

New data released today reveals 3 in 5 employers are now offering paid parental leave, the vast majority of those making paid leave equally available for both parents.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s new parental leave insights are from their 2020-21 census on gender equality for employers of 100 or more employees.

Those employers leading the way are offering gender-neutral parental leave which can be taken by either parent with no qualifying period – with leaders in the field offering as much as 26 weeks (6 months).

Six per cent of employers offer more than 18 weeks, although the most common length of paid primary carer’s leave is between 7-12 weeks (23% of employers).

The results from the latest WGEA census confirms paid parental leave continues to be affected by two key factors: industry and organisation size.

Half of the organisations in male-dominated industries do not offer any form of paid primary carer’s leave, compared to only 1 in 4 organisations in female-dominated industries.

Female-dominated industries are also more likely to make paid leave available regardless of gender, ensuring men are encouraged to take leave as the primary carer.

Large organisations are the most likely to offer paid parental leave, with nearly 9 in 10 employers of 5000+ staff (85%) paying parental leave, compared to 54% of organisations with 250 staff and less.

For the first time in 2020-21, WGEA collected data on whether employers pay superannuation during periods of parental leave.

Of the employers offering paid parental leave, 81% pay superannuation for parents while on paid leave: 74% pay superannuation during the employer-funded parental leave, and 7% pay superannuation on both employer-funded and government-funded parental leave as well.

WGEA Director Mary Wooldridge encouraged Australian businesses to further invest in and expand access to paid parental leave.

“Employers can send an unequivocal message to their staff that they are valued and important for the future, and in return employees will have increased job satisfaction, productivity and loyalty.”

“Having access to paid parental leave also has significant health and well-being benefits for families and the community more broadly. Studies show that adequate parental leave can lead to lower infant mortality rates, increased breastfeeding rates, improved health outcomes for mothers and higher female labour force participation.”

While paid primary carer’s leave is becoming increasingly available to both men and women, only 12% of those who take it are men.

“Australian businesses are stepping up and making no distinction between men and women taking parental leave. As they bolster their policies, they’re increasingly ditching the labels of primary and secondary carer and recognising we’re all parents,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“Now, it’s time for dads to take it up and make the most of this opportunity.”

Ms Wooldridge said the data shows some promising signs that workplaces are beginning to normalise men taking time out of the workforce to share the care for their children.

“Amongst all managers taking primary carers leave in the last year, 1 in 5 were men.

“Managers need to role model this, as it sends a clear signal – you won’t be penalised for taking the leave, in fact, it’s encouraged and supported,” she said.

Ms Wooldridge said that while the pandemic appears to have entrenched the stereotypes around caring responsibilities, the expansion of paid parental leave is a very positive development, as research shows that when men take parental leave, households establish more equitable divisions of unpaid work and care.

Changing attitudes about the distribution of work at home and in the workplace is a key driver for achieving gender equality.” Ms Wooldridge said.

The WGEA Director says the results show there is a clear pathway towards progress for employers offering parental leave.

“The gold-standard are the generous gender-neutral policies allowing flexibility in when and how it can be taken, available as soon as employees join an organisation – though there is a sliding scale in the lead up to this.

“Some employers are dipping a toe in the water by topping up salaries for their employees who are taking government-funded leave, while others are adding in superannuation payments to begin to close the retirement income gap.”

The complete WGEA Scorecard on the state of gender equality in 2020-21 will be released on Friday, 11 February 2022.  

The latest WGEA dataset will also be available to view on a new interactive data visualiser tool in February, at

Media contact:

Shelby Houghton, WGEA Media and Communications Manager: 0487 325 857