A push for equality when it comes to parental leave is being led by the Australian branch of global bank ING, which has released research suggesting that Australians want both parents to be given the same amount of leave.
The ING-commissioned research, conducted earlier this month by GalKal, polled 1,028 Australian adults, who overwhelmingly said that the idea of primary and secondary caregivers is “old-fashioned”.
According to the poll, 76 per cent of Aussie think both parents should be entitled to the same amount of leave on the arrival of a newborn baby — regardless of the family make-up or dynamic.
Three-quarters of parents suggested they need more than two weeks of leave to properly bond with their infant, with 27 per cent concerned about missing out on this important bonding time.
Furthermore, a majority (69 per cent) believe that unequal leave policies and entitlements actually entrench uneven levels of caregiving within modern families.
ING quoted Dr. Justin Coulson of Happy Families — a father of six and a psychology and wellbeing consultant, who also advises the federal government’s Office of the Children’s Safety Commissioner — as stating that parent-child bonding is crucial with the arrival of a newborn.
“The first few years in a newborn’s life are paramount for both parents when forming a close attachment with their child. It’s the time when we see them grow, recognise their unique quirks and ultimately develop an everlasting connection,” he said.
“As a working father, I understand the conflict between career and parenting commitments, particularly when there are financial pressures involved. So, I’m thrilled that employers... are changing with the times and doing more to help accommodate the needs of new parents and ease the burdens they can encounter.”
ING announces equal leave
The research was timed to coincide with the announcement that ING will now offer both parents an equal 14 weeks’ paid parental leave. The bank said it has also scrapped references to “primary” and “secondary” caregivers.
“There’s no one way to define today’s modern family, each with a unique structure and range of challenges,” its head of retail banking, Melanie Evans, said.
“Workplaces, therefore, have to question their own assumptions around the caregiving roles once assigned to mums and dads. Our findings tell us they no longer apply.
“By acknowledging that no two families are the same and that all parents deserve equal entitlements and flexibility, we hope to normalise the process of taking leave, particularly for those once considered secondary carers.”
Parental leave a hot topic in 2019
The issue of parental leave has received much attention this year, particularly after former federal cabinet minister Kelly O’Dwyer announced her retirement from politics in January — ahead of the federal election — in a bid to spend more time with her young family.
In the days after Ms O’Dwyer’s announcement, listed tech company IRESS announced that it would provide up to 8.5 days’ extra paid leave for parents who had young children starting primary school for the first time.
The issue also has pertinence for business owners and entrepreneurs, with Business Women Australia’s national director, Lyn Hawkins, telling My Business in May this year that it is more common for male-led businesses to raise capital than female-led ones.
Part of the reason for this, she suggested, is that many women launch a business as an alternative to paid employment, so that they can look after their children and still generate an income while avoiding or reducing their reliance on expensive childcare.
Her comments were in response to a global survey that suggested female entrepreneurs generally work much longer hours than their male counterparts when childcare duties are factored in.
As the Fair Work Ombudsman notes on its website, Australian employees are entitled to 12 months’ unpaid parental leave and can request a further 12 months of unpaid leave.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.