How will COVID-19 impact gender diversity?

'We have experienced a significant uplift in the number of male employees accessing parental leave'

How will COVID-19 impact gender diversity?

Following the introduction of an 18 week fully paid parental policy in November 2018, Accenture has reported a 330% uptick in men accessing parental leave over the last four years.

The number of men accessing parental leave at Accenture Australia has grown from 56 in 2016 to 272 in 2020 with more men than women taking it up in 2020 (115 females, vs 272 males).

This is in major contrast to ABS statistics (2017) which found that just one in 20 Australian fathers take primary parental leave.

As one of the first organisations in Australia to introduce such a policy, Accenture believes the working practices, habits and new attitudes developed during the COVID-19 lockdown could accelerate the move towards a more gender balanced workforce.

Bob Easton, Country Managing Director, Accenture Australia said the company undertook a series of pivotal revisions to their leave policies in November 2018.

This includes offering 18 weeks’ leave for new parents of all gender identities, alongside a major internal drive to encourage fathers to utilise parental leave to help support their families.

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“As a direct result of these changes, we have experienced a significant uplift in the number of male employees accessing parental leave, allowing families to share parenting responsibilities more equally,” said Easton.

“Generally, the share of men using parental leave is low across corporate Australia, with a range of barriers at play, including attitudes and culture, however this is proof that change is under way and we are proud to be part of this change.

“It is essential for us to normalise men being active carers in order to level the professional playing field, and we may see this being accelerated as a result of COVID-19.”

Even before the pandemic, there was a growing momentum in corporate Australia to help close the gender gap by allowing men equal access to parental leave schemes, enabling them to spend valuable time with their children and help their partners return to work.

Gareth Shaw, a Managing Director in Accenture’s Financial Services practice took three and a half months’ parental leave when his daughter Olivia was born.

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“Helping my wife care for our first child was amazing, and really allowed me to bond with my daughter and share as much of the load, from feeds, to washing and cleaning,” said Shaw.

“I’ve noticed more and more Dads accessing parental leave at Accenture in Australia, with many men in my team taking this invaluable time with their young children in the past few years.

“The current pandemic has brought my family together even closer and required dedicated teamwork to balance work responsibilities with caring for our child.

“Such a progressive parental leave policy will really benefit new parents in the current situation, and beyond – it enables mothers and fathers to be a present and equal family unit.”

Accenture Australia’s parental leave policy details including:

  • The data quoted is based on a submission to Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) and covers April 1 2019 to March 31 2020.
  • All permanent full-time and part-time employees of all gender identities are entitled to 18 weeks' paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child (under five years of age) newly under parental care (was previously 13 weeks before policy change in November 2018).
  • There is no minimum time in employment before accessing parental leave.
  • Paid parental leave may be taken at full pay, or at half pay to double the duration of the paid leave period. 
  • To support returning employees, Accenture works to accommodate flexible working hours, home working, part time work and job sharing.
  • Annual leave, personal leave and long service leave will continue to accrue during the paid parental leave period(s).
  • Superannuation contributions will continue during your paid parental leave period(s).
  • Employees on parental leave can also continue to use their Accenture laptop and devices, and access email and the intranet. Those with Accenture mobiles may continue to use them within their plan while on paid and unpaid parental leave.

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