Parental Leave: Inside the policies of Australia’s 500 biggest businesses

In a first of its kind Australian study, we’ve analysed the parental leave policies of Australia’s largest 500 companies to understand what is on offer for fathers and rank the best places to work for new Aussie dads.

We engaged research agency CoreData to conduct the research, and consulted parenting, fatherhood, and workplace diversity experts, as well as our DAD community, to determine the key criteria for father-friendly workplace policies and practices.

While a small group of companies have started to lead the way, we found the majority have significant work to do in modernising their approach to parental leave and supporting male employees on their journey into fatherhood.

Secondary Carer’s Leave

Secondary carer’s leave is leave that can be taken at the same time as the primary carer, usually taken by dads/non-birth parents immediately after the birth.

This an important time for dads to bond with their newborn, support their partners while they are recovering from childbirth, and build confidence and competence as parents themselves.

The average number of weeks paid secondary carer’s leave offered by the companies analysed was just 1.1 weeks, while over a third provided no paid secondary carer’s leave at all.

Just under one in four companies offered two weeks paid secondary carer’s leave, and only 7 per cent of Australia’s largest businesses provided more than two weeks.

Research shows that dads who take two or more weeks leave after the birth are more likely to engage in regular child-caring tasks after they return to work, including getting up at night, feeding, changing nappies, bathing, and reading bedtime stories. It has also been linked to greater cognitive development and school readiness in young children.

To qualify for consideration in our final list, companies had to provide a minimum of two weeks secondary carer’s leave to employees with 12 months or more of service.

Just under one in three companies met this criteria.

Primary Carer’s Leave

Primary carer’s leave is an extended period of leave available to the primary carer of a newborn, defined as the person most responsible for meeting a child’s needs including feeding, dressing, bathing, and otherwise supervising the child.

In simple terms, the primary carer is the person who stays home to care for the baby — usually full-time — while the other parent returns to paid work.

While dads can assume the role of primary carer, companies traditionally structure their paid primary carer’s leave policies in a such way that it must be taken immediately after the birth, thereby limiting access to mums/birth parents.

In recent years, some companies have re-structured their policies so that paid primary carer’s leave can be accessed for 12 months or greater after the birth. This means that dads can avail of it should their partner return to work within that time-frame. We’ve called this ‘passing the baton’.

To qualify for consideration in our final list, companies had to provide a minimum of 12 weeks primary carer’s leave at full pay to employees with 12 months or more of service. This leave had to be available for a minimum of one year after the birth, making it more accessible to dads.

About one in 10 of the companies analysed had policies that met these criteria.

Flexibility and family friendly practices

While the provision of paid parental leave is important, supporting parents to return to the workforce and balance their new roles as parents is also fundamental to providing a family-friendly workplace.

99.3 per cent of companies with more than two weeks secondary carer’s leave also claimed to provide some form of flexible work practices for new parents. However, the success of such initiatives depends largely on how well they are encouraged and promoted internally, which is difficult to measure.

Many workplaces have ‘informal arrangements’, while those with formal policies don’t always ‘walk the talk’ or grant employees access to certain provisions on a ‘case by case’ basis.

To determine a score for flexibility, we looked at a combination of factors, including whether there was a formal policy in place, targets had been set, and leaders were held accountable.

We also looked at other ‘family friendly’ policies and practices, including the availability of free, on-site, or subsidised childcare and the provision of parenting groups or workshops.

Australia’s Best Workplaces for Dads

Once we applied the key criteria, a list of 44 qualifying companies emerged. We then ranked these by length of secondary carer’s leave, followed by weightings for primary carer’s leave (length and uptake), flexibility and other family friendly policies, to compile our 2018 list of the Best 20 Australian Workplaces for New Dads.

Note: The ‘Family flexibility’ score is a score out of 10 for flexible policies, childcare availability or subsidies, and the provision of parenting workshops in the workplace. Data on primary carer’s leave uptake was also considered in the final weightings, but is not represented in the above chart.

Read more about the Top 20 companies and their policies.

Top Industries

Certain industries featured more prominently in the top 20, with trends identified in Financial and Insurance Services as well as Professional, Scientific and Technical Services.

Other Commendations

There were a total of 13 companies in our sample that offered four weeks or more of secondary carer’s leave but did not qualify due to not allowing dads to avail of primary carer’s leave once their partners returned to work (ie. pass the baton). Despite this, these companies are setting a great example through their concurrent leave entitlement.

Where is your company?

Direct Advice for Dads and CoreData limited this year’s field to the largest 500 companies in Australia by revenue (according to IBISWorld), using company reports to the WGEA, publicly available policies on parental leave, enterprise agreements, media reports, and direct communication with HR and PR departments to compile all data. The final data set used to compile the report was collected between April 9 and May 4, 2018. If you have a policy of note that you would like us to know about, or you would like to know how you could feature on this list for next year, please contact us.