7 July 2010

A collaborative research team led by Professor Bill Martin of UQ’s Institute for Social Science Research will conduct the Federal Government’s Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme evaluation.

The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin announced today that the UQ would lead the $2.7 million project, which also involves collaborators at ANU, the University of Melbourne, University of Tasmania and the University of Sydney.

In the 2009-10 Budget, the Australian Government announced that the PPL scheme would commence on 1 January 2011. The scheme passed Parliament this month.

The PPL scheme will offer up to 18 weeks of taxable payments at the Federal Minimum Wage (currently $543.78 per week).

Expectant and new mothers will apply for the scheme through the Family Assistance Office (FAO) with eligibility based on meeting a work history test, residency requirements and an income test. Payment will be made via the employer to most recipients with the rest paid directly by the FAO.

Professor Martin is the employment and education program leader in the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR).

He said the four-year evaluation would inform the Government about the impacts of the scheme and provide evidence to inform a review and possible amendments to the scheme in the future.

“One of the reasons we believe we won the tender is the depth of knowledge and experience in the Institute, combined with demonstrated capacity,” he said.

“Another reason is that our team members include such experts as Professor Gillian Whitehouse of UQ’s School of Political Science and International Studies, and Professor Marian Baird of the University of Sydney, who together recently conducted the major Australian study on this topic.”

There have been enduring calls in Australia to introduce a statutory scheme to provide paid parental (particularly maternity) leave to eligible parents.

Only around half of employed women are currently eligible for paid parental leave with coverage through voluntary private provision particularly low for casual, less skilled and lower paid employees (and all of the self employed).

Women without paid parental leave often resign when they have a baby, or if they remain employed, take a shorter time off work to care for their babies compared to employees who have access to paid parental leave.

Australia has relatively low employment levels for mothers with young children, as compared with other OECD countries (8th lowest out of 25 countries).

UQ’s ISSR, which won the project through competitive tender, is one of Australia's largest social science institutes, with more than 100 staff.

Professor Mark Western is the Director of the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR), and a member of the research team.

“The Institute for Social Science Research is delighted to be leading a group of researchers who will undertake the evaluation of the Federal Government’s Paid Parental Leave Program," he said.

"The program has the potential to have a very significant national impact on the employment participation of mothers, and parents more generally, on maternal and infant health and wellbeing, and on gender equity between women and men in families and in paid work.

"It also has significant implications for employers.

"We are extremely pleased to have been selected, to have the opportunity to work very closely with FaHCSIA on such an important piece of applied policy research, and to collaborate with an outstanding team of researchers from UQ, ANU, The universities of Melbourne and Sydney, and the University of Tasmania.”

Through the ISSR, UQ aims to establish itself as the major centre of excellence in social science research in Australia, and as a world leader in this area.

ISSR’s researchers address some of the most important issues and challenges facing Australia today.and also work in close co-operation with government agencies, corporations and community organisations.

Media: Professor Bill Martin, telephone 07 3365 6806, w.martin@uq.edu.au or Jan King UQ Communications 0413 601 248