When researchers are designing an experiment, they set up two groups in order to test a hypothesis. The experimental group on which the hypothesis will be tested, and the control group which remains unchanged to test the variation in outcomes. In the case of Partner Leave, I have been a part of each group.
In early 2016 when my son was born, the company I worked for offered the statutory minimum (for Hong Kong, where I was working) of three days Partner Leave. This meant that my leave expired the day after my wife returned home from hospital. Thankfully due to an understanding leadership team I was able to work flexibly for a week, while we attempted to work out what it meant to be parents.
Following a company-wide policy change (still at my previous role in Hong Kong), we were then offered four weeks of Partner Leave, an excellent change I might add, especially after welcoming our daughter. Having experienced both a very short and then a reasonably long leave period to welcome new family members, I thought I would share five reasons why I think more partners should take Partner Leave:
- For your kid(s):
When your baby first arrives home, it’s a big deal. If you’re anything like me, it’ll take some time to adjust to the idea that you are now a parent tasked with caring for this tiny person who has joined your family. A potential bonus for second-time parents can be the opportunity to also spend more time with your older child at the same time. For me, my second Partner Leave allowed me to not only welcome my newborn home, but also to spend a great deal of time with my son, time I felt that I missed during my first very short leave period.
- For your partner:
This may seem obvious, but in those early days, partners can offer a great deal of help in the period of adjustment that comes after the new arrival. Changing nappies, looking after the baby, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and potentially feeding are all things that partners can look after. Also, a little moral support never goes astray in this time.
- For yourself:
Having a child is a big deal, and to do it well will take most of your mental, physical and emotional strength. In this case, your work (and likely other commitments) can wait, there’ll be time for them later.
- For your company:
This one seems counter-intuitive but think about it – taking your Partner Leave is good for you – but it’s also good for your company. Why? After my son was born it was frustrating to need to return to work so quickly and I have little doubt that the quality of my work suffered for a short period. The second time around I had the opportunity to spend much more time with my family, easing the process of welcoming our daughter. This made me very grateful to the company and my team for the support they offered.
- For the memories:
Your kids are only young for a small amount of time, and during those first few weeks and months they grow so quickly. No matter the project you’re working on or the deadlines you’ve been set, you’ll never get the time back. It’s also a great opportunity to cross-train some team members or give opportunities to your junior colleagues. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to return the favour soon!
A bit about Parental Leave at Optus:
In 2019, we’ve introduced some great improvements to our Parental Leave Policy:
· A gender-neutral approach to Parental Leave so that irrespective of gender, employees who are the primary carer have the same access to 12 weeks total paid leave, making it easier for employees to have the freedom to share caring responsibility within the first year; and
· Making superannuation contributions to employees during the first year of unpaid Primary Carer Parental Leave to address financial disadvantage in retirement savings for employees taking time out of the workforce to give primary care for their family
· Plus, we have a variety of Flexible Work Arrangements, including flexible work hours, remote work, part-time work, and job-share to encourage and support the diverse nature of our people and provide an environment where our people feel valued and engaged.