COVID-19 has magnified the need for equal parental leave, according to new research from ING.
ING found over two-thirds (67%) of people needed their partner on parental leave to share responsibilities during the COVID period.
Survey respondents said limited contact with family and friends (65%), the feeling of isolation while raising a baby (59%), and a lack of ‘down time’ from parenthood (56%), all contributed to them needing more support from their partners.
The survey of 400 new parents who had been on parental leave through the pandemic, was commissioned to mark a year since ING became the first bank in Australia to give employees equal paid parental leave.
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ING’s Head of Retail Banking, Melanie Evans, said equal parental leave was in no way a new issue, one which the bank had tried to address.
“One year ago we launched an industry leading parental leave policy to give both parents an equal 14 weeks of paid parental leave," Ms Evans said.
"We did this to remove the stigma associated with parental leave and to acknowledge that each family is different and needs more flexibility in order to juggle the range of challenges that come with welcoming a child into the family.
“Today, the number of ING fathers taking more than two weeks parental leave has increased fourfold since this industry leading policy came into effect in September 2019.”
The pandemic hasn't been all bad news though, with workplaces better understanding the challenges of family life.
A third of fathers said their boss is “more understanding” of their parental responsibilities (35%) and believe their colleagues are “more compassionate” after seeing their family life on video calls (33%).
Three in 10 fathers also said a more flexible workplace made them more likely to ask for paid parental leave in the future (29%).
“Perhaps the silver lining of the pandemic is the fact it has helped improve the understanding of what it’s like to juggle work while raising a family in Australia and encouraged more employers to flex according to the needs of working parents and carers,” Ms Evan said.
Equal leave helps to adjust to family life
ING Customer Care Specialists, Blake Walsh and Heather Burrows welcomed their first child Finn in August 2019.
Mr Walsh said both having 14 weeks of paid parental leave meant they hadn't experienced the additional financial stresses that many new families experience.
“I chose to use half my leave at the beginning and the rest now to help the family adjust as Heather returns to work," Mr Walsh said.
"With COVID it’s been handy to have that leave available as we can’t send Finn to day care if he has any mild cold-like symptoms, which seem to be part and parcel of being a baby at day care.”
Ms Burrows said equal parental leave had helped them to adjust to family life and implement lifelong practices.
“One of our priorities is for Finn to have a healthy mix of male and female role models in his life," Ms Burrows said.
"We want him to grow up knowing that men and women are equal and for him to see mum and dad sharing the parenting responsibilities.
“I took more time than expected to recover after having Finn and we actually don’t know how we would have managed those first couple of months had we both not been around 100% of the time."
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