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Payroll needs to recognise that parenting is skilled work too

The Council of Trade Unions said that new research released this morning by public policy researchers at Motu shows parenthood is undervalued by employers as skilled but unpaid work, with mothers being impacted by a lifelong ‘parenthood penalty’. Secretary Sam Huggard said the research illustrates how undervaluing what is perceived as unpaid ‘women’s work’ has an interaction with paid work, and strongly contributes to the gender pay gap.

“We see that in caring roles, like aged care in the case of Kristine Bartlett, the skills, effort, conditions and hours of work have been dismissed and historically underappreciated by employers, and unions are righting those wrongs through equal pay cases now. In unpaid work, the same bias is shown by employers where mothers suffer lifetime earnings loss when returning to work after having children, whereas fathers overall do not suffer a ‘parenthood penalty’.

“The researchers speculate on reasons for the earnings impact on mothers, and it’s likely we need to see a suite of social policies to remove motherhood discrimination, including making paid parental leave more financially sustainable. Flexibility around returning to work, better leave for all caregivers and pay increases while on leave and on return to work also help make parental leave more equitable.

“Being a parent is one of the most demanding unpaid roles that anyone can undertake – emotional intelligence, creativity, adaptability and personal organisation are all transferable skills needed for the future of work. More employers need to wake up to the fact that women returning to paid roles haven’t been on holiday, but are returning from an intensive immersion course in multitasking and resilience. This evolution in attitude from managers is key for creating stronger, diverse workplaces and eliminating the gender pay gap in New Zealand.”