Should paid parental leave be a mandatory right?

While some businesses offer paid leave, others are lagging behind

Should paid parental leave be a mandatory right?

Tony Abbott, while in opposition 12 years ago, declared his intention to give Australian mothers access to six months of paid parental leave. Fast forward to today and the governments parental leave scheme doesn’t look much different from what it did when Tony Abbott made the bold claim that never came to fruition. While the government quibbles over superannuation payments on parental leave, Australian businesses are taking over and leading the charge.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), three in five Australian employers now offer parental leave in Australia and while there is an increase of men taking paid parental leave, only half the businesses in male-dominated industries offer it, and the WGEA says businesses need to invest more in new parents.

The first thing Michael Osmond, Head of People at JobAdder, did when he started his role two and a half years ago, was address the lack of paid parental leave policy at the company. “We were really progressive in other parts of the business, but we didn’t have any paid parental leave,” said Osmond.

Osmond’s first daughter was born within weeks of him starting the role and he was forced to take unpaid leave to support his wife through the time. “It was crazy, I remember thinking, tech company, tech start-up, you hear about all the benefits, flexibility, work from anywhere, outcomes based. So, I said what do we do from a parental leave perspective, and it was nothing.”

Osmond had just come from prior roles in two businesses where he installed parental leave policies. “One of them was ten years ago,” said Osmond, “so it seemed a bit prehistoric not being there.”

JobAdder’s parental leave policy now gives primary caregivers three months paid parental leave, and a partner of the primary caregiver receives six weeks. The primary caregiver also receives up to two years unpaid leave. An additional ten paid ‘keeping in touch days’ to help transition back to work, new parents can request flexible working when they return to the workforce.

The cost of paying an employee who isn’t producing for 12 weeks and then potentially having to cover that employees position for two years is huge, but the benefits far outweigh the cost says Osmond. “When I was first pitching the idea to senior leadership, none of them needed convincing around the benefits of supporting our working parents, and the long-term benefits of keeping them engaged and offering flexibility that way,” Osmond told HRD.

Osmond said the benefits were obvious. “Being able to pitch roles to be more diverse in the talent pools that we’re looking at bringing into the business, being able to retain those people and their IP (intellectual property) within the business. All those things around retention and IP retention, recruitment, higher return on investment.

With the amount of attrition that’s happening out in the broader industry but particularly in the tech sector it’s more important than ever to do all you can to prevent it happening in your business. “If you can retain people through something as common sense as some flexibility or paid parental leave, you’d be crazy not to. If they’re a quality higher, and we can retain them, and they're engaged with business long term, there's a lot more return on that from our perspective as well as it being the right thing to do.

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