Six months ago, I reached a massive milestone in my life when my wife excitedly ran down the stairs to show me a positive pregnancy test. Discovering our first child would be arriving in February 2020, we were beyond excited. We were also a little apprehensive about how this massive change would affect our lives. Going through the experience for the first time, we knew we’d have to learn a tonne of new things about how to care for a baby. Sleeping patterns would change and significant chunks of time would be dedicated to caring for our son. One of the biggest worries I had was balancing my role at Weploy alongside my new role as a Father. Marian Baird, professor of Gender and Employment Relations at the University of Sydney, said almost all eligible women take paid parental leave compared to about 25 to 30% of men. But, as 50% parent to my unborn son, not 25-30%, I had some concerns about my entitlements and how it would impact my career.
Traditionally workplaces have given parental time off to the primary caregiver while the secondary caregiver goes back to work almost immediately. For most families, the mother is selected as the primary caregiver - which is understandable given that they are the ones actually doing the birthing part! But having primary and secondary carers as a concept in itself is flawed and could be supporting gender inequality at home and in the wider world. A survey by ING Australia revealed that nearly seven out of 10 respondents believe the terms “primary caregiver” and “secondary caregiver” actually promotes unequal parenting. The same study showed that equal leave for both parents would have a positive effect on families, with 85% saying it would strengthen the family unit and 77% saying it would ease the pressures of raising a child. It should not be assumed that Dads are always the secondary caregivers.
The cultural expectations in Australia still dictate that mothers are to leave their position at work and devote themselves to parenthood, whilst as the breadwinners, fathers return to work as soon as possible. The statistics about the gender pay gap in the workplace are well reported on, but how can this change if these beliefs are upheld? I was relieved when I found out that Weploy believes that equal parental leave is the only way male/female power imbalances at work and in the home can ever be addressed. This in turn, will reduce gender imbalance in the workplace by keeping women who already are in the pipeline from leaving it, and support the premise that men and women have equal, 50/50 responsibility in parenting.
Paternal and Maternal leave at Weploy is competitively set at 8 weeks’ for all those who have been with the company for a year to 2 years. Employees who have been with the company for over 2 years are entitled to 12 weeks paid leave. The people team believe that paid parental leave programs increase worker retention and reduce turnover, which helps businesses avoid the costs associated with hiring and training new employees to replace those who leave to care for new children. The benefits extend to company loyalty and boosted morale.
I love what I do and am a driven, motivated person when it comes to my career. But having time to switch off from that and spend time with my wife in the first few months when our child really means a lot. Babies develop a massive amount during the first few months and I don't want to miss those key moments. I also appreciate how difficult it would have been for my wife to look after a baby on her own, so it's important that I'm around to share the load and allow her to get some rest.
Knowing that I can expect 8 weeks’ pay provides a huge benefit to us financially. My wife's salary will be reduced while she's taking the government's paid parental leave. While lots of companies offer some additional unpaid leave for the secondary carer, it's often not a viable option when trying to provide for an extra person. My paid time off means that we can focus on enjoying time with our new arrival without worrying about burning through our savings.
One of the other worries I originally had was my family back in Ireland. As well as being our first, it's also my parents' first grandchild. They're at the stage where they're a little too old to travel so it's hard to find the time and money to visit as often as we'd like. The additional paid time off allows us to fly home for a few weeks so they have the opportunity to bond with their new grandson. When I think back 10 years ago to companies' attitudes towards secondary carers, I couldn't imagine the fortunate situation I'm in today.
I think it's important that both parents have an equal opportunity to spend that time with their child and to share the responsibility of being a new mum or dad. It's something that's gradually changing and I'm proud to work in an organisation that's helping drive that change. In addition to their generous parental leave, Weploy is flexible with taking time during work hours to visit medical specialists, do daycare pickups and school drop-offs and with 2 out of 5 of our senior leadership team being Dad’s themselves, the actual practice of this is supported from the top-down. While this flexibility has been available from the day I joined, I'm now more grateful than ever to know I have the opportunity to attend scans and see how our new addition is developing. I understand that we all have busy work calendars, but it's been refreshing to work somewhere that trusts us to get our work done on a schedule that compliments our lives.