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Paying for Time Out with the Kids

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There’s been a step in the right direction for Aussie mothers with the introduction earlier this year of paid maternity leave for anyone who, the year before, earned less than $150,000.

That’s good news. The bad news is that in the first year back at work, a new mum can expect to earn 4 percent less per hour than if she had not had a child.

In a new report from The Australia Institute, The Wage-Penalty Effect, The Hidden Cost of Maternity Leave, David Baker estimates that mothers are losing $126 million in foregone wages.

And it doesn’t correct itself. In fact, the wage disadvantage increases over a few years and can continue for up to 10 years.

It’s not a surprising finding, of course. The question is, what causes it? Is it because many mothers are less career focused, or is it because bosses just assume that’s the case?

I spoke to one mother yesterday, who used to work in stock trading, who admitted that she never used to recruit new mums. Some jobs, she says, just aren’t suitable for women with kids.

Four years ago I committed the cardinal sin in a job interview of saying that, as a new dad, I would like to be home by seven at least a few nights a week to see my son before he went to bed. I was soon after told that they (Optus) didn’t believe I was committed enough for the job.

Conversely, I know of one manager who never employed anyone if they didn’t have children. Perhaps he thought they were more balanced and time efficient.

It’s a complex issue. There seems to be a need for a shift in attitudes.

First published on CBS News

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