“It is a wake-up call to government to reassess the current paid parental leave policy and look at the way it can be modernised. It was a breakthrough policy when it was introduced and the 10-year point is a good time to take stock to see where it could be modified and improved upon.”
Federal government policy provides 18 weeks of parental leave to the primary carer, usually the mother, paid at the same rate as the minimum wage.
The partner, or secondary carer, can get two weeks of parental leave paid at the minimum wage of about $720 per week, which Professor Baird said was less than appealing to fathers on higher wages.
Iceland offers new parents six months of paid parental leave, including an extra three months of non-transferrable leave specifically for new fathers, who are paid 80 per cent of normal wages.
Boston Consulting Group, which has about 450 Australian staff, will for the first time offer those employees 16 weeks of parental leave paid at their full wage, starting from January 1.
“This is a move in a positive direction and takes it above the private sector norm,” Professor Baird said.
Julian King, 36, who works for BCG in Sydney, is planning to take six weeks of leave as a block and then come back on a flexible working arrangement after his second child is born in January.
In 2017, when his first child Felix was born, he was only entitled to two weeks of paid parental leave.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “It gives me a chance to help me support my wife so she doesn’t take all the load of looking after a new child. It also helps her looking after Felix.
“I’m getting 100 per cent of my wage for six weeks. That’s one of the things that made it an easy decision. BCG management have been very supportive of taking leave. They encourage you to take it.”
BCG human resources director Michaela Alhadeff said the company policy on parental leave has changed since 2017. In 2018, 15 out of 18 new fathers took paid parental leave as primary carers.
From January there will no longer be a distinction between primary and secondary carers. All new parents, whether they are the primary or secondary carer, will each be entitled to 16 weeks of fully paid leave and superannuation. She said the policy represented an investment in the retention and engagement of staff.
“This is absolutely critical in how we support women,” Ms Alhadeff said.
“If we want to greater equality of opportunity for women, we need to provide greater equality for men at home.
“We have a leadership who deeply understand the change and are behind it. Some of the first people who took it up were our most senior leaders.”
Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter.