Back in 2018 when he was employed by Grant Thornton as an Information Security Manager, Gavin Townsend took six months of paid parental leave when his youngest daughter, Alex, was born.
He hadn’t planned to take parental leave so quickly but his wife Jane’s work wanted her back after three months.
Reflecting on his decision to take six months of paid parental leave he says that he saw it as a really good opportunity to spend time with his daughter. He thinks that a lot of people still see parental leave as only being available to women and that’s why very few men take it up.
He says: “It’s certainly something I felt comfortable doing. I know that a couple more people in my team have taken leave since and I’m sure that’s because they can see that the team backs them and it doesn’t affect your career.
“In fact, it can actually help grow your team and upskill others who backfill for you and I think it’s just great all round. Certainly from my wife’s perspective it has a massive influence on her career having the chance to go back to work and have that support at home.”
Since he took paid parental leave his career has not suffered and he is now employed by Grant Thornton International as Global Chief Information Security Officer.
He adds that he had some great memories with Alex that he missed out on with his oldest daughter Katie. One of his favourite memories was simply lying in hammocks staring at the trees and clouds with Alex as she became more mobile and the weather improved.
He concludes by saying: “If anybody has the chance to take this sort of time with their family you really have to consider doing it….look at your team, look at the work that’s coming up, look at the logistics of it and it will get sorted and take the time. Take the time to spend it with your family.”
Another Grant Thornton employee who took parental leave was Mr Andrew Wrigley, Applications and Development Manager.
He took two stints of parental leave with the first from July 2019 until January 2020 and again from October 2021 until February 2022.
He says the decision helped his wife’s career: “It allowed my wife to return to work sooner, as we didn’t want to send our kids to childcare before the year mark. From that lens, she had an additional four months of career focus.”
Mr Wrigley says other dads should do the same: “I’m sure I’m not the only new dad who hadn’t really anticipated how little time you get with your kids in the early months due to work commitments. I would see them for an hour in the morning and an hour at night before they went to bed. As a really hands-on dad it’s disappointing that you don’t have more opportunities to contribute and experience the special moments.
“As a family we don’t really believe in gender-based roles either. I didn’t want to feel like a constant secondary caregiver.
“The parental leave policy at Grant Thornton gave me that opportunity to be primary caregiver for my kids, develop a close bond with them and really build confidence as a parent.”
A year before his first child was born he was given the opportunity to backfill the applications and development manager role when the previous manager joined a major technology transformation project. The role then became permanent between both stints of parental leave.
Lion Co Insights and Strategy Leader, Mr Jens Poser who has three daughters with his wife, Rhiannon Nixon took a couple of weeks off when his youngest, Greta was born.
He then switched to a part-time working week where he takes one a day week off work. His wife, who works for an employer with a generous parental leave policy does the same so that one of them is home with Greta.
Mr Poser says the decision has benefited his family, with him being able to build a better relationship with Greta, his other daughters and his wife.
When asked about the impact on their superannuation balances he says: “they’ve taken a hit but we do make additional contributions.”
Mr Poser says that to promote change in family responsibilities men need to become champions of change themselves and step up.
Mr Poser is concerned about inequalities between those who work for small companies and those who work for large companies. Parental leave policies are likely to be more generous at larger companies than smaller companies.
Workplace Gender Equality Agency does not collect data on the parental leave policies of companies with fewer than 100 employees because it is not required under the legislation.
Outside of the major auditing and financial companies, Australian company Finder recently introduced a new workplace policy where they will allow employees up to 20 weeks parental leave to both the primary and secondary caregivers.
Under the policy there is no qualifying period, meaning employees do not have to wait 12 months to be eligible. Finder also contributes to the superannuation balances of employees during the paid and unpaid portions of parental leave.
The parental leave can be taken in one block or multiple blocks within the first 24 months of the child’s birth or placement.
Finder Chief People Officer, Ms Shanyn Payne says: “By continuing to pay super during paid and unpaid parental leave, we assist to close the gender pay gap, particularly when it comes to women’s retirement balances.
“A life event as unique and important as becoming a parent needs to be dealt with as such. Parents in the workforce require additional support in the time leading up to, during and following the birth or adoption of a child, which is why we’ve increased our paid parental leave policy.
“By offering more flexibility and financial stability in what are the most important and uncertain times in our crew members’ lives, we are supporting the whole person and not just the employee.”
One employee who’s benefited from the new parental leave policy is Finder’s Global Head of Talent, Mr Jamie Finnegan.
He just arrived back at work from four weeks parental leave after his son was born and will be taking another ten weeks later in the year to spend with his four week old son.
Mr Finnegan says it’s really important to spend time with your children in the early stages of their life and that he’s so grateful for Finder’s policy that has enabled him to balance his career alongside his family responsibilities.
He adds that taking parental leave will make it easier for his wife, Sam when she returns to work because he’ll have some caring responsibility experience from his recent stint at home with his son.
His wife’s employer also has a generous parental leave policy so there hasn’t been any negative impact on her career or their finances, including superannuation.
While on parental leave he also remained in contact with Finder and was still connected to the company, which he was also grateful for.
He concludes by saying that he was proud to be involved in Finder’s new parental leave policy.
Senior subeditor at Finder, Mr Loewenthal also took parental leave. When his first baby was born he took four weeks off after the birth from Finder’s leave policy and then two weeks from general paid parental leave. He then used the last week later in the year.
When his youngest was born he took four weeks off immediately after the birth and he’ll use another chunk when his wife goes back to work.
His wife took ten months last time and she was going to take longer but when COVID hit they were both at home anyway so she returned to work a bit earlier. The company she works for pays six months at half pay or three months at full pay. She works for an Australian technology company with 300 employees around the world.
He says that he and his wife are planning to share the load when she returns to work.
“We’ll both work four days a week and have a day each with the kids once my wife is working again, so I’ll use the rest of my leave to do that.
“It feels like a massive privilege to have so much leave and it removes a lot of stress. I’m also very fortunate that Finder’s new parental leave policy was implemented three weeks before our second baby was born.”
While 95% of paid parental leave is used by women, Mr Lowenthal has advice for other fathers.
“Use all the leave you’re entitled to and work from home as much as you can if you’re able to. When they’re a newborn wear them in a baby carrier while you’re working and they’re ready for a nap. It will give your partner some alone time, even if it’s just for half an hour, it helps.
“I can also recommend both parents working four days a week and spending a day with the kids, with daycare on the other three days. We did that first time round and will do that again. That way daycare costs aren’t as high and both parents are able to progress in their careers.”
When Lauren and Ben Frazer’s first son, Lachie was born 21 months ago, Lauren and Ben sat down to discuss how they would handle childcare in the first couple of years of his life.
Mrs Frazer, who has been employed by Telstra for the last 12 years and is currently the Employee Relations Manager, took nine months off when Lachie was born. Then her husband Ben took four months off.
She says: “There was probably a couple of things. With Telstra, I was very lucky in having 16 weeks of paid parental leave and/or the option to take it at half pay and then my husband Ben also had a period of some paid parental leave.
She says that it was important for Ben that he was able to spend quality time with Lachie when he was born.
While Mrs Frazer was on parental leave she remained connected to Telstra and would regularly catch up with her boss, mostly virtually because of the pandemic.
Then there was a period where she wanted to return to work and Ben taking the time out of the workforce enabled her to do that.
“I think it was the right balance for me and gave me the ability to go back at a point in time where I just felt like I need to start using my brain and engaging back to the workforce,” she adds.
If Ben hadn’t been able to take the time out to spend with Lachie, then Mrs Frazer says she would have wanted to stay home with their son for another three or four months.
Like other fathers we’ve spoken to about the impact on their family lives, Mrs Frazer says that a memory that sticks out for Ben is going to the zoo with Lachie.
He had bought a 12-month family membership and would wander around the zoo with Lachie, which he found very relaxing and since then it’s been a special place for them which they go to as often as they can because of the memories.
Of course, while Lachie was a baby he didn’t really know what was going on but Mr Frazer is glad he has that memory.
As Lachie has grown, Ben has also taken him to the playground on numerous occasions without having to worry about the time.
The shared parental responsibility has also strengthened Mr and Mrs Frazer’s relationships.
He’s enjoyed spending time with his son so much that like Mr Poser he has returned to work part-time and takes Fridays off.
His choice has meant that Mrs Frazer is the breadwinner and that some of Mr Frazer’s colleagues have looked and considered doing the same.
Before Mr Frazer took parental leave when Mrs Frazer returned to work, many of his male colleagues weren’t aware that they were actually entitled to take parental leave after the birth of a child so his choice has made them consider their family lives.