More dads share the load under early extended parental leave

More dads share the load under early extended parental leave
More dads share the load of childcare Photo credit: Getty

Bucking the tradition of Kiwi mums taking time out from their careers to start a family, more dads are rising to the challenge following ANZ's move to 26 weeks of paid parental leave for its employees.

Under current parental leave guidelines, new kiwi parents are entitled to up to 22 weeks' pay from the Government, to a maximum of $585.80 (gross) per week. This will be extended to 26 weeks from 1 July 2020.

Last July, ANZ jumped ahead of the game, offering 26 weeks of paid parental leave to employees, giving mums the option to either take extended time off or return to work earlier, giving dads the opportunity to take on the role of primary caregiver.

Michelle Russell, general manager talent and culture at ANZ, said that as a result of the extended leave, over half of new mums are taking more than 12 months off, while more new dads are choosing to stay at home beyond the first few months.

 "In 2018, dads took an average of four-and-a-half months' parental leave, up six weeks on 2017. 

"At the same time, 60 percent of mums who took parental leave took more than 12 months, up 14 percent on the previous year."

Russell also said that this year, the employer has seen an 8 percent increase in dads using employee leave benefits to support their families.

Although some dads may be hesitant about assuming the role of primary caregiver so early, head of digital marketing Dave Gascoigne recently returned to work after taking almost five months' off to care for his son, allowing his wife to return to work after five months at home.

"I remember feeling a bit nervous before staying at home full-time with three kids, but it was the best thing I've ever done," Gascoigne said.

Finding himself one of the only dads at the playground and school pickups, Gascoigne said he made friends with local mums. While not always practical, he encourages other dads who have the opportunity to experience being the primary caregiver.

To support a more gender-equal workforce and break down stereotypes of men caring for children, the bank is sponsoring a photography exhibition and forum called 'Kiwi Dads' which it hopes will open the door to more men assuming the primary caregiver role.

"Not only is it a positive experience for fathers and children, it also helps create a shift in equality: when men are more equal at home, women can be more equal at work," Russell said.

Allowing staff more time to spend with their families appears to be a positive move for staff retention, with 75 percent of ANZ's staff having been employed with the bank for over three years.