For the third year in a row, paid parental leave policies are changing at breakneck speed. It’s all good news for dads and working families.
HBF’s Direct Advice for Dads commissioned original research from CoreData to learn how Australian workplaces support dads as they become first-time parents. We also wanted to hear from dads about their knowledge of workplace benefits for working fathers and how much value they placed on those benefits.
The third annual study of paid parental leave policies in Australia shows a highly competitive landscape in the Top 20 Australian Workplaces for New Dads, with companies being more generous and liberal in their policies than any time in history.
One thing caught us by surprise. While companies are working hard to make workplaces more friendly to dads, the information isn’t always getting through or being absorbed by new fathers.
Things are getting better for dads – a lot better
According to the HBF Parental Benefits for Fathers 2020 survey conducted by CoreData, 82 percent of dads in leadership roles say they actively support their company offering a range of parental benefits to fathers. Not only that, 71 percent say they actively encourage working fathers to take advantage of these benefits.
This is great news for dads who widely believe parental benefits should be available to all people and extend beyond the first two weeks. There is also a widespread belief among working and future dads that access to parenting benefits has a positive impact for dads as well as mothers and employers. The overwhelming majority of fathers and future fathers agree that parental benefits:
- allow working dads to be more involved in raising their children
- help working dads establish better work-life balance
- support better mental health and wellbeing in working dads
- make flexible and remote working arrangements more common and accepted for working dads
Gender-neutral policies show changing attitudes to family dynamics
In 2018, only one company (5 percent) in the Top 20 Australian Workplaces for New Dads list had a gender agnostic policy for carer entitlements. By 2019, that figure had grown to 25 percent.
In 2020, the figure nearly doubled, with 45 percent of the companies in the top 20 list making no distinction between primary and secondary carers when it comes to leave entitlement.
The gold standard for gender-neutral policies is 18 weeks of paid leave. This means a new arrival could potentially spend the first 36 weeks with one or the other of their parents providing primary care if the parents decide to take their paid leave consecutively.
COVID-19 is a catalyst for change for working dads
If there’s a silver lining for a year like 2020, it could well be the impact it’s made on working fathers. Perceptions have been shifting over time, but COVID-19 restrictions have put alternative working arrangements in overdrive.
In 2020, according to our research, the top four employers’ benefits most valuable to working fathers in Australia, in order of ranking, are:
More than half of working dads experienced remote and/or flexible working for the first time during the pandemic. Fifty-two percent of dads believe these arrangements will become more popular and 46 percent believe parental benefits for fathers will be more widely accepted now there’s been large-scale proof of concept conducted due to stay-at-home orders.
Companies are more generous with benefits
The secondary carer’s leave policy is the area where dads most often and most directly benefit from family-friendly policies. It’s this unsung policy that has the most profound effect on a working dad’s lifestyle, so it’s the one to watch.
In 2020, every one of the top 20 workplaces offers at least four weeks of secondary carer’s leave, a massive increase from 2019 when only 12 of the top 20 offered as much.
Overall, 36 percent of companies assessed in 2020 offer at least two weeks of paid secondary carer’s leave.
Despite these advances, awareness of company benefits for new fathers is limited. Less than half of working dads fully understand paid parental leave benefits. Alarmingly, three in five working dads and future dads have little or no knowledge of secondary carer leave policies.
With the exception of flexible work hours and remote working arrangements, knowledge about non-leave parental benefits is even lower. Less than 10 percent of fathers say they’re familiar with any of these benefits:
- Onsite childcare
- Employer-subsidised childcare
- Childcare referral services
- Parenting workshops targeting fathers
- Pass the baton leave
Dads have more paid opportunities to be the primary carer for their children
If secondary carer’s leave is good for fathers, ‘pass the baton’ is the best way to supersize the benefit. This policy allows secondary carers to step into the primary care role for their children and receive paid entitlements when their partner returns to work. What this means for families is new additions are cared for directly by a parent over an extended period.
In 2020, the percentage of all companies offering a minimum of two weeks’ secondary carers’ leave and ‘pass the baton’ increased to 17.6 percent. That’s up from 14.4 percent in 2019 and 11.4 percent in 2018.
Despite this progress, dads are particularly unsure whether they can access paid parental leave entitlements as both a primary and secondary carer. Fifty-four percent of dads responding to the HBF parental benefits survey believe it’s not possible for fathers to access paid primary carer leave after they use their paid secondary carer leave.
In other words, more than half of fathers don’t understand the ‘pass the baton’ benefit.
Competing for talent with dad-friendly benefits
A staggering 96 percent of men aged 29 years old and younger say they would consider parental benefits offered to working fathers when choosing a prospective employer. For those men aged 30-39 years old, the figure drops only slightly, to 91 percent. The impact of COVID-19 has influenced dads’ attitudes, with 41 percent saying parental benefits would be more important when making future employment decisions.
Not only are a rapidly increasing number of dads taking up benefits when they become a parent, almost all want to access benefits as their children grow. This new breed of father understands the value parental benefits add to the long-term health of their family and say their employment choices will be influenced by employer family-friendly policies.
Who’s winning the competition for family-friendly policies?
A diverse number of industries are represented in the Top 20 Australian Workplaces for Dads in 2020 but concentrations in a few key industries are beginning to appear. Like last year, finance and insurance topped the list, growing to 40 percent, up from 35 percent in 2019. Male-dominated industries like mining, construction, and gambling also made the top 20 list.
What’s next for working dads?
Direct Advice for Dads embraces the New World Order brought about by changing perceptions of family dynamics, employer benefits for working families and the unexpected positive impacts created by COVID-19. It’s encouraging to see the level of support being offered by dads in leadership positions.
The biggest barrier to helping working dads take advantage of all on offer may be the easiest one to fix. Awareness of parental benefits – especially those available for dads or secondary carers – can be accomplished during employee onboarding, persistent employer awareness campaigns and modelling by members of a company’s leadership team. Looking back over the leaps of progress during the past three years, it’s not hard to imagine this problem being quickly resolved.
About this report
Companies considered for the top 20 list are limited to the largest 500 companies in Australia by revenue (according to IBISWorld). Annual research conducted by CoreData, in partnership with HBF, uses publicly available information on a company’s parental leave policies including WGEA reports, enterprise bargaining agreements, media releases and website information. Data for this study was collected during 1 August 2020 to 31 September 2020.
A short survey conducted by CoreData between 21 August 2020 and 04 September 2020 (during the COVID-19 pandemic) supplemented the Top 20 Workplaces for Dads research. A total of 406 responses were collected. The 12-minute survey captured insight from fathers and fathers-to-be currently employed across Australia into the awareness, uptake, perceptions and experiences of parental benefits.
Would you like to see your company on the list?
If your company has a policy you think we should know about, or you would like to find out how you can feature on this list for next year, please contact us.