Category Archives: Dads

Balancing work and family: Tips for single fathers

Daniel Sherwin Single Father Photo

Single fathers today face a deeply rooted social bias that calls into question their ability to meet the demands of parenthood. It’s a prejudicial view that’s been around for decades. The New York Times reported 30 years ago on a study which found that single dads felt discriminated against because of an image which vilified them as negligent, even though those questioned indicated they were simply trying to provide for their kids. One respondent wrote that he’d been made to feel like a “freak.”

Persistent ideas about gender roles insist that men can’t be nurturing parents, or fulfill the vitally important role normally filled by a mother. It’s often said that dads just don’t have enough time to devote to their kids’ needs, or that they don’t know enough about parenting. Such preconceptions have been at work in the family court system for decades. Many judges still favor mothers in custody cases because they’re perceived to have a natural predilection for parenting. In fact, it is estimated that women are awarded custody at least 68 percent of the time. These ideas and beliefs are breaking down but they are still there nonetheless and that’s a problem as the divide it creates in our homes, workplaces and community is keeping both men and women at a disadvantage from living a fulfilling and balanced life. In particular, it’s holding women back in the workplace from advancing their career and men from embracing their innate caring nature which, when nurtured, can also speak volumes in our workplaces. Continue reading

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How Australian Businesses Can Better Support Working Dads

Father And His Baby Daughter Grocery Shopping.

These days, working while raising children is increasingly common. According to the ABS Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, 62% of coupled parents work, while 60% of single parents work. What’s more, 90% of dads with children under 15 are employed, meaning the vast majority of Australian fathers are juggling work and parenting commitments in tandem. Here are just some of the ways Australian businesses should be looking to create a supportive environment for working dads.

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6 ways employers are raising the bar on gender equality

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2015 Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) citation holders are raising the bar when it comes to creating gender equal workplaces. Here are a few examples of how they’re doing it:

Tackling unconscious bias

Cars and IT: these two traditionally blokey areas come together at Carsales.com. However the leadership team recognise the value of having an employee profile that reflects the diversity of their customer base. Carsales.com has embarked on a journey to promote gender equality within their organisation and industry. A key feature has been unconscious bias training for the exec and senior leadership teams, with a view to rolling it out across the whole organisation. The training has opened eyes about the subtle ways gender bias can creep in to the workplace and has sparked a new process for reviewing job advertisements to make them more appealing to women and men – for example highlighting opportunities for flexible work and equal opportunity objectives.

Removing return-to-work barriers

Leading organisations are bolstering their efforts to make it easier for women to return to work after having babies. Maternity leave has traditionally been a danger period for losing employees as they become disconnected from the workforce and struggle to find childcare or negotiate suitable work on their return, which may be part-time. Caltex Australia has moved into the third year of its innovative BabyCare program and recorded an increase from 80% to 100% of new mums returning to work after parental leave. The program provides a quarterly 3% bonus for the first two years to cover childcare costs, assistance to find suitable childcare and paid access to an emergency nanny service. While not every new parent in future may want to come back to work, removing financial and care-related barriers makes a big difference.

Getting flexible 

Momentum is building around flexible working, with the recognition that both women and men may have caring responsibilities or other interests while still being committed to their work. Some organisations have moved to ‘All roles flex’ models – such as Telstra – and others are actively promoting flexible work through manager training and internal communications including video and poster campaigns. Suncorp has introduced a range of flexible work arrangements to give people a say over when, where and how they work – with 84% of employees saying they are now working with a degree of flexibility.

Setting targets

More organisations are setting targets to drive action on gender equality within their workforce. Engineering and construction firm GHD operates in traditionally male-dominated industries. They have set a target of a 40% female workforce by 2020, with at least 30% of professional and technical roles held by women. The target isn’t about preferring one gender over another, but rather introducing systems such as balanced shortlists for internal and external recruitment that allow women’s merit to be revealed. Setting targets has already made a difference, with an increase in female leadership appointments over the last six months in the company’s Australian operations.

Dads are parents too 

Parental leave has traditionally been treated as women’s business, but leading employers are recognising that true gender equality means recognising fathers as parents too. This year, there have been moves by several organisations to expand and promote their parental leave programs for men – in particular to encourage men to take primary carers leave. This gives new dads hands-on time with their babies and allows partners to share caring responsibilities. Under Lend Lease’s parental leave arrangements, each parent is entitled to 18 weeks paid parental leave as a primary carer at any point in the first 52 weeks. If they both work for the organisation they can tag team their primary carers’ leave to help manage childcare.

Recognising domestic violence as a workplace issue

There is a growing recognition among employers that domestic violence impacts the workplace and that policies to support employees experiencing domestic violence can make an important difference to their lives. Origin Energy recently implemented domestic violence leave that is uncapped depending on individual circumstances and doesn’t reduce other leave entitlements.

Source: Workplace Gender Equality Agency

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Gender Equality in the Workplace: The Role of Paid Parental Leave

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recent article by senior Sydney Morning Herald writer and new mum, Jessica Irvine, sparked our interest.

In her piece, Jessica proposed that we cannot have true gender equality until we have true shared responsibility for raising children. She challenged the labels of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carer enshrined in the current Paid Parental Leave (PPL) legislation as one of the roots of the problem.  Perhaps more concerning is, that as a society, we don’t realise the unintended negative consequences to gender equality when we use the terms ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ care giver.

“In fact, our entire paid parental scheme is predicated on the idea that there should exist a ‘primary’ and therefore a ‘secondary’ care giver. Mums and dads are forced to decide in the first few weeks which will be which. The idea that duties should be shared equally from the start doesn’t even compute in the current system.”

Jessica Irvine, SMH

Over the years we’ve seen countless times the effect of being assigned ‘primary’ carer has on women, unfortunately, often to their career peril. Many feel they must accept this assumed ‘lead position’ or ‘centre controller’ because it will ensure their family stays just that – a family.

Granted, some women want to stay at home for as long or longer than their PPL permits but what of the women who want to return to work and really share the caring role with their spouse?  Many feel the pressure to stay at home – pressure that comes, in part, from a system designed to commit them to the role as the ‘primary’ carer – which can be permanently, for those who find breaking back in impossible down the track.

Current legislation allows the ‘primary carer’ to transfer their PPL entitlement to their partner if they meet the eligibility criteria. This still implies either one spouse/partner must be the primary carer. What’s more the ‘Dad and Partner Pay’ of 2 weeks paid leave to care for a child overtly implies that mum will be the ‘primary carer’ to take PPL – Dad, well, he’ll just take a couple of weeks off and be back at work! What stereotypes does this reinforce about men and women’s role raising children and the proportion of time men vs. women ‘should’ have off whilst raising a family. And what if you are in a gay relationship – two fathers or two mothers? It forces the couple to choose – one is more of a ‘real’ parent than the other.

To be eligible for Parental Leave Pay, you need to be the primary carer of a newborn or recently adopted child. The primary carer is the person who most meets the child’s physical needs. This is usually the birth mother of a newborn or the initial primary carer of an adopted child. You are considered to be the primary carer from birth, even if your child is in hospital.

Eligibility for Paid Parental Leave Pay, Centrelink

Ask any parent – raising a child is a blessing and a challenge. But consider that imposing one parent with the weighty label of ‘primary’ carer carries with it an assumed unequalness that can be (and more often than not is) interpreted as one parent having more responsibility (i.e. more tasks, more decision making authority, more sacrifice) and implies that the other ‘secondary’ carer is somehow less important or has a lesser role to play. Every able parent is equally responsible for the upbringing and well being of their child. Period.

What if PPL redefined all parents as ‘carers’ of their child rather than as ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ carer and what if they were equally encouraged to access paid parental leave within the first 12 months? How would that change the state of play in the culture of workplaces? How would it change the minds of men and women in a society that still pays women less for the same work and struggles to find female leaders?

Would parents feel more empowered to step up and be the mum or dad they want to be? Would women feel more empowered to make life and career choices that were important to them instead of feeling forced to make sacrifices (for stopping paid work) or carrying the guilt (for choosing to work)? We know from various studies that gender equality at work leads to a multitude of societal, economic and personal benefits. A report released last month by the McKinsey Global Institute highlights this fact blatantly: “If every country saw women reach parity with men on workforce participation, global GDP would increase $28 trillion”.  And this: “More than half (54%) of the potential increase in GDP can come from increasing women’s workforce participation.”

There is a very plain bias here and one we’d like to see change before the next round of PPL legislation is enacted, for the sake of all Australians – this generation and those to come.  The inequalities at work (we still have a 18% gender pay gap in Australia) and home (women do 2.5 times more unpaid work than men) highlight why we need to address inequality at all levels of society. We need to discourage gender-based assumptions in every nook and cranny we can – from the laws we make to the colour of socks we feel we ‘ought’ to buy our new born. As my 4 year old said this morning: “some kids think blue is for boys and pink is for girls but I like blue and all colours are for everyone”.

In summary, and put simply, we propose the Government remove all gender references from the new Paid Parental Leave legislation. ‘Either parent/carer’ will suffice. Change starts with the individual, but when we have laws that reflect true equality (both parents, without bias, playing an equally active and important role as both carer and worker), we start to inspire and encourage every parent, working or not, to play a role in raising the next generation – equally. After all, it takes village to raise a child doesn’t it?

By: Emma Walsh

First published by Women’s Agenda

 

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City Dad on taking extended paternity leave

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City Dad, Adrian Dyer, on taking extended paternity leave to put his family first, taking a step back and focusing on what’s really important

Adrian Dyer began his career in the Merchant Navy as a navigating officer. He came ashore in 2000 and has worked within the shipping industry in the City of London ever since. He is married with two children. Adrian blogs as City Dad, aiming to encourage dads to become familiar with their rights as regards paternity and parental leave, as well as flexible working.

Family man

I think I’ve always been a family man. In fact most of my family, my own dad in particular, is very family-oriented, as opposed to surrounding themselves with friends, for example. I have always loved being around my family and around the home. At one point in my career I even requested working from home as a permanent change to my contract (it seemed much preferable to commuting for two and a half hours each day!) but my suggestion was rejected.

Shifting the base of work and family

In 2009, after the birth of my son, I spent two weeks on paternity leave immediately after his birth and then disappeared off to work leaving my wife to carry on with the rest of her maternity leave alone. This didn’t seem fair for several reasons. First, I had it easy, sliding off to the office to sit around and drink cups of tea while dealing with a few emails and calls.

My wife, on the other hand, was rushing around all day with our little one. She did love her time at home but, especially as it was our first child, it wasn’t easy. “You’re not doing anything around the house,” she used to say and she was right, I wasn’t. How could I? I left for work before 7am and was back again shortly before 7pm. But what could I do to shift the balance of work and family?

Back in 2009, the answer was: not a lot. However, when my daughter was born in 2012, we had more options.

“How would you like to split my maternity leave with me this time?” my wife asked.

“What? Can we really do that?” I asked, surprised.

Extended paternity leave: How would I cope?

Luckily my wife works in HR so she was well aware that in 2011 the law changed to allow dads to take up to six months of the wife’s maternity leave as additional paternity leave, as long as she has taken at least the first six months and returned to work. How would that work financially? How would I cope looking after two kids? What would my boss say about that?! So many questions…

A few months out to spend quality time with the kids – taking a step back and thinking about what’s really important

What an amazing opportunity – a few months out to spend quality time with the kids. I’d really be putting my family first. I think sometimes we can get caught up in life and lose our sense of what is really important to us. We focus on salaries, bonuses, status, how many bedrooms we have, what sort of car we drive. Once in a while it’s worth taking a step a back and thinking about what’s really important to us.

So: how about taking additional paternity leave? Financially it would be OK. My wife was earning more than I did so her returning to work once her enhanced maternity pay ended made sense. In addition, I was lucky enough to have some savings which I could use to pay my own way during my four months of totally unpaid leave.

Looking after two kids: It couldn’t be that hard, could it?

Could I look after two kids? Well, it couldn’t be that hard, could it? And what would my boss say? I work in the City of London for a company founded in the 1800s with a very traditional work ethic, so I knew this was going to be tricky. The best approach I could come up with was to take my manager out to lunch, buy him a couple of beers and then hit him with it. I thought he might be more receptive after having sausages and mash and two pints of Old Wallop.

He was shocked at first and actually didn’t know if it was even possible, but once I emphasised the financial reasons behind my plan, it began to make more sense to him. Nevertheless, he asked me to check with HR. That turned out to be just a formality. So that was it. All set for four months “off”.

An amazing, family changing experience

How did it go? It was an amazing, family changing experience. The kids loved it, I loved it and my wife was ready to return to work and leave me in charge at home. It was hard work though and when I tell people I only went back to work for a rest I’m only half joking! It’s all go, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I’d do it again.

Everyone I spoke to was really supportive and, apart from my own manager’s initially hesitant reaction, I’ve received nothing but encouragement and support from friends, colleagues and people I have met. This also includes other mums I met who seemed to enjoy the novelty of having a dad around!

Spend as much time as possible with the kids as possible – they won’t want Dad around forever!

After my four months of paternity leave, the thought of going back to work and missing out on being with the family was a bit depressing. However, I managed to negotiate a four and a half day working week which has worked out really well. It has meant a pay cut, of course, but I think that kids are only young once so we have to do what we can to spend as much time as possible with them now as they won’t want Dad around forever!

More devoted employee

Work wise I’ve returned to exactly the same role and my job hasn’t been affected negatively in the slightest. I’d even go so far as to say it’s had a positive effect, as I think I’m a more devoted employee now and, due to the fact that my employer has allowed me to work flexibly, I’m more likely to stay where I am.

The next generation of men will be doing this a lot more than we do, so why not beat them to it?!

By: Adrian Dyer

Source: Womanthology

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