I’ve seen a number of LinkedIn posts recently by new Dads sharing the fact they’ve taken an extensive parental leave break.
By extensive, I mean somewhere in the order of three to six months.
These posts usually receive favourable attention, plenty of likes and “good for you” comments, as well as the odd, “let’s hope it inspires more Dads in the workplace”.
Recently Jack Bell, a senior manager at PwC Australia, shared that he’d just finished up 15 weeks of full paid parental leave with his employer paying him to stay home with his young son while his wife returned to part time work. He wrote about the benefits of the experience, and urged other new Dads to take such leave if it’s offered. He also urged employers to do more to offer better leave options to secondary partners. The post received almost 3000 likes.
I like these posts. It’s great that men are not only taking lengthy parental leave breaks (I say ‘lengthy’ in comparison to taking nothing at all, or merely the government paid two weeks), but also publicly sharing the fact they are doing so. Each post may just get us a little bit closer to someday seeing this as the ‘norm’, rather than the exception.
In Jack’s case, it’s enabled him to spend valuable time with his baby, to help his partner transition back to work, and to learn new skills and experiences. “I’m more patient, organised and compassionate and I know I’ve got it covered the next time someone spits the dummy,” he wrote. “I have new feathers in my cap, and as repayment to my employer for the last few months, I’ll be better at my job for it.”
But Jack’s experience is far from the norm – even for new Dads who work for employers that offer such leave.
Indeed, even the take up of the Federal Government’s two weeks paid parental leave to secondary carers – the vast majority of whom are male – is nowhere close to 100% for those eligible. Less than one in three eligible people are taking up the ‘Dad & Partner Pay’ offer to take two weeks leave, and be paid around $1300 in the process.
According to a survey of men and women by Hays, it may come done to fear.
Thirty four per cent of the men surveyed by Hays said they feared they would be viewed as less committed to their job if they took up all the parental leave they were entitled to, while 54% said men may not take such leave because they’re worried it will have an adverse impact on their finances. They may have good reason to be concerned, with just 19% of those surveyed saying their organisations offer parental leave to male employees on equal terms to female employees.
A portion of men said they saw parental leave as the right and responsibility of the mother. That portion is low, at just 12%, but still indicates how much work there is to do on this issue.
When fears like these continue to persist, it’s clear we still need positive and public examples – like Mark Zuckerberg (who recently took two months off for the birth of his second child) and PwC’s Jack Bell, to prove the benefits of taking leave can far outweigh any perceived or experienced negative effects.
Shared parental leave can assist in promoting shared child rearing responsibilities long-term, which will go a long way to opening more opportunities for both men and women.