Michael Johnston and Westpac – Dads on Parental Leave Case Study

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About Michael

Michael is a Sydney-based working dad of two kids, a boy and a girl. He took parental leave under Westpac’s generous three months paid scheme when his daughter Esther was around 6 months old. Now, having returned back to his full time role, Michael is able to make use of the company’s agile working approach, to insert a level of flexibility into his working day, whether it be leaving earlier to pick up the kids or working from home if they happen to be ill.

Michael’s Parental Leave Story 

When his wife returned to work six months after the birth of their second child, Michael said it was a “no-brainer” to take three months off to be the primary carer for his daughter. “I just don’t know why, if you worked for a company that was willing to give you your three months off paid leave to spend time with your child, you wouldn’t do that? What possible reason would you have to say no?” 

Michael’s wife had started a new role during her second pregnancy and hadn’t accrued any entitlements to paid leave, but between the two of them, “it was obviously beneficial to be able to have one of [us] caring for Esther in the first nine months.” He also said “it was a joy to spend 3 months with Esther and had noticeable benefits for our relationship.”

Even though Michael acknowledges that there can be a stigma for men taking carer’s leave, and that some men think their job is too important to take time out, his own personal experience has been a hugely positive one and he hopes other fathers can feel supported to do the same.

Michael credits the support he had from his manager, also a parent, with the smooth transition he had to and from parental leave when returning to Westpac.

He notes that some workplaces don’t genuinely want to accommodate men (or women) taking parental leave or working flexibly and view it as an inconvenience – which can leave you feeling like you’re treading water in your career if you’ve got caring commitments. Michael advises that, as far as requesting flexible arrangements goes, “that you need to have a plan for how it’s going to work” and be willing to negotiate.

Michael says the key to shifting the dial on men sharing the caring responsibilities with their partner is to foster a workplace culture that normalises flexibility for everyone and actively supports parents and carers to spend quality time with their families. He notes that there’s “plenty of need” for more child care support and this can be solved, in part, by better access to part time and other flexible work arrangements if employers are willing to “change their attitude” and be creative in the way they help employees juggle work and family.

About Westpac’s Parental Leave Policy

Westpac Group promotes flexible working and actively encourages our male employees to take parental leave and to work more flexibly. Our recent YourVoice (2017) results indicate that up to 74% of our employees currently work flexibly. Westpac Group’s Parental Leave Policy offers fathers/partners to take 13 weeks of paid parental leave at full pay if they are the primary carer at any time before their child turns one. Fathers/partners can also take 2 weeks paid leave as the ‘Support Carer’.

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