All entitlements are not equal

We are lucky enough to be experiencing a small baby boom in the Australian climate science research community. A conversation on Twitter a couple of weeks back revealed that parental leave schemes differ greatly between universities in terms of length of pay, flexibility, and accessibility.

I have since dug around and attempted to compile some basic information about parental leave schemes at various Australian (Group of Eight) universities. I looked at the length of paid and unpaid leave, provision for a return to work bonus, the interchangeability or shareability between partners at the same university and the generosity of provisions for staff who have not been employed for 12 continuous months of service. This last point is a big hurdle for many early career academics navigating life and work on short-term contracts.

I have included some basic information about the accessibility of information on entitlements. Is all the info there ready to go for a soon-to-be parent, or are you required to get a qualification in policy and dig through an Enterprise Agreement interpreting complex clauses? I have also included a basic assessment of the use of language within the information provided – does it refer to birth mother or parent? For most new families, this isn’t an issue, but in some cases, families can fall through the gap of policy. For example, the funding rules for ARC Fellowships seems to exclude entirely two dad families or dads are primary caregivers.

I have not ranked the universities relative to each other. Everyone has different needs. Some academics might prefer a long period of paid leave for the mum as the primary caregiver. Other families might favour a return to work bonus to kick start those snowballing childcare costs. Some families might be desperate for some paid leave when moving regularly from short-term contract to short-term contract. Others again might wish to share leave between parents or simply to see their family recognised in their employer’s policies and not by excluded entirely by gendered language or heteronormative assumptions about what makes a family.

While most researchers will have an idea of what provisions will help them most, some might not have an idea of how different entitlements are between different universities. I didn’t before that Twitter conversation. Under the Australian Fair Work Act, employers must provide each eligible parent with an entitlement to 12 months unpaid parental leave, with the option of extending that time by a further 12 months if their employer agrees. The Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme provides eligible working parents with 18 weeks of Parental Leave Pay at the rate of the National Minimum Wage.

After that, there’s a lot of difference from university to university. If you are thinking you might want to start a family in the future but aren’t sure which university you will end up at, take a look through because this could mean up to 6 months extra at home with baby.

I also note that I may well have made mistakes in interpreting and summarising this information. Please do send an email or comment to correct me where I have been mistaken – it’s really hard to pick through and interpret all this information (hence why I’ve only tackled the Group of Eight).


*Paid provision for 12 months of service for primary caregiver

* Eligibility for some leave before 12 months of service

*Flexibility in converting paid leave for a return to work bonus

* Where both parents are employees of the same University

* Information packaged for users or only links to the Enterprise Agreement/Policy documents

Documents to follow up on:

University of Western Australia

University of Sydney 

Melbourne University

Australian National University

Monash University
University of Adelaide
University of Queensland
University of New South Wales
[ note I haven’t included PhD student entitlements, which differ vastly from staff]

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