When you have a child it is arguably the biggest thing that is going to happen in your life. I’ve been through it four times and it is momentous and life-changing.
All sorts of stresses, tensions and challenges suddenly enter your family’s world. There are different ways of making sure everything is fantastic on the homefront and fantastic on the workfront for the betterment of both.
At PwC, we want to encourage and support fathers to be fully involved in parenting. This creates more balanced families, and it is good for the men, who learn a whole different set of skills from parenting a newborn to the skills they develop at work, as well as overcoming a whole different set of personal challenges – parenting can take agility of mindset and negotiation skills to a whole new level!
Australian businesses have for a long time moved away from traditional maternity leave for mothers in favour of gender-neutral parental leave for primary carers. Parents can share a year’s worth of leave after the birth of a child, creating more options for families and breaking down restrictive gender stereotypes and roles.
There has definitely been a cultural shift in Australia and other countries with similar social values like the UK and the US for fathers to be more involved in their child’s care. However, in the main, men are still reluctant to step away from their jobs to take up child upbringing.
This week the Department of Business in the UK said take-up of shared parental leave by eligible couples “could be as low as 2 percent” and has launched guidance and tools for parents on Shared Parental Leave and Pay.
Australia’s paid parental leave scheme, introduced under Labor in early 2013, was designed with the right intention but also hasn’t had the desired effect. Around 95 percent of primary parental leave, taken by the person with the most day-to-day responsibility for the child, was taken by mothers, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in September last year.
There are many reasons why more men aren’t taking parental leave. To start with, not enough men are talking about it or sharing their experience. But more than that, I don’t think traditional parental leave policies are giving men and families the flexibility they need.
At PwC, we’re trying to encourage more dads to act as primary carers in the first 12 months of their child’s life by increasing the flexibility of our policy. Our people can take the full 90 days of paid parental leave in one block, or work two or three days a week for several months combined with days at work. We believe this will help encourage more men to take advantage of parental leave, enabling them to continue to maintain a presence at work, whilst simultaneously giving them flexibility to do more at home.
Today, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has released its list of 120 Employers of Choice for Gender Equality and I’m proud that PwC Australia has received a citation again this year. I’m particularly proud that our flexible parental leave policy has been highlighted as a market-leading initiative.
At PwC we have an “all roles flex policy” that encourages our people to have open and authentic conversation about how, when and where they work best, so they can build an arrangement that suits their lifestyle. Flexible parental leave is a critical part of our flexible working culture.
We believe it will encourage more dads to take up child upbringing, promote gender equality, and will have a positive impact on women, men, children, society and the broader economy (as well as helping us to attract and retain the best talent of course!).
In the words of PwC director Simon Doukas, who is currently on parental leave: “It’s incredibly important [and] it’s such a short period that goes so fast.”
By: Luke Sayers