The Benefits of Supporting Parents at Work

Tim Henry, Steve ‘Commando’ Willis, Grainne O’Loughlin, Stephen Moir, Renee Clarke

For the 2nd year running, Peoplecorp teamed up with The Moir Group and Karitane to host an evening for some 120 HR and Finance Leaders where we heard from a stellar panel exploring the challenges and benefits of supporting parents at work. This year there was a particular focus on all things dad related and the evolving role of what it means to be a father in today’s world.

The panel consisted of Steve ‘The Commando’ Willis, Lucinda Brogden – Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Luke Benedictus from The Fatherhood, Sharlene Vlahos from Karitane, and Kate Cato from Minter Ellison; and facilitated by Emma Walsh – the founder of Parents at Work.

Emma kicked off the discussion with some hard facts. Only 1 in 20 fathers actually take primary carer’s leave. An Australian father will in fact only take an average of 7.3 days of leave when their child is born, before returning to work. And in the survey conducted by Parents at Work we learned that 50% of women still experience some form of carer discrimination and 30% of men admitted the same.

Lucinda highlighted that all parents arrive at the work place each day with a ‘huge cognitive load’ from what they have been doing since waking up (usually not at a time of their choosing!) and so it made sense for employers to try to ease that stress, in whatever small ways they can, to help parents to be as productive as possible. The mental health implications for not addressing this are clear in terms of the impact on the individual and the business.

Steve, a dad of 4, was incredibly open and authentic telling personal stories of how he had changed significantly as a father since his time in the Army when his first child was born to how he is now with his 2 younger boys. He felt that the societal changes around gender roles in the workplace and at home are a generational shift and so it was only natural that young first-time parents slipped into more traditional parenting roles, without a conscious decision not to do so. Luke agreed and supported this view saying dads must work hard not to become ‘mum’s assistant’.

Lucinda made the observation that whilst it was encouraging that more businesses offered paid parental leave to all parents (regardless of gender) it is almost always only offered if they are the primary care-giver. She and Emma challenged this type of condition because each family make-up was different and asked if a business is prepared to offer this benefit, why be so prescriptive about how it is used.

Emma flagged that the issue of supporting parents at work is actually a larger national / federal issue and that the government will need to address how to support the majority of Australians (in non-corporate jobs) in taking some form of joint paid leave, and not leave it just to employers. The audience also had plenty of comments and questions and the conversation continued over drinks and networking immediately after.

Thank you again to the Moir Group and Karitane for their ongoing collaboration and to McGrath Nicol for their support in using their events space.