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Flexible work and fatherhood does exist

15 March 2016 |Diversity & Inclusion

Staying at home with a new baby has long been the domain and expectation of women.

But a new trend is emerging across Australia; men no longer want to miss out on bonding with and caring for the newest addition to their family.

With more men aspiring to stay home and play an active role in raising their children, employers are facing increasing demand for more flexible working options and parental leave benefits.

Seeking to support and empower their male employees - and to be seen as a diverse and inclusive workplace by job seekers - organisations are offering paternity leave beyond the government's base entitlements, while supporting men to take a break from the workforce without fear of career set-backs.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, one of the largest employers in Adelaide's CBD, believes supporting its male employees to take paternity leave is key to retaining and attracting talent.

In addition to the standard two weeks' paid paternity leave, the Bank offers up to 12 weeks' paid parental leave within the baby's first year if they are the primary caregiver. They also have access to up to 24 months unpaid leave if they'd like to stay at home while their partner returns to work.

A more productive workforce is the main reason Bendigo and Adelaide Bank provides flexible work practices, focusing on enabling employees to balance the expectations at work with those of family.

"People who don't feel like they have to choose between their work and their family are more likely to be happier and more effective employees," said Mark Schultz, the Bank's Head of People and Performance, himself a father of young children.

Mr Schultz said the leave options available to new fathers were part of the Bank's commitment to supporting each employee's life stage.

"Our ethos at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, is to always work with flexibility and inclusiveness in mind, and this includes our parental leave policies," he said.

"It is so important that we not only offer our male employees paternity leave, but also empower them to actually take it without worrying about the effects on their career."

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank's Brand Manager and Adelaide-based employee, Brad Polling, took three months' paternity leave last year, relishing the opportunity to spend more time than had ever been possible with his three young children, Phoebe (6), Banjo (3) and Ted (1).

"I'm lucky to be with an organisation that supports its male employees to take parental leave without impediments to career growth," Mr Polling said.

"When I asked my manager for the time off, her response was so reassuring; 'Of course - you're about to go perform the most important job you'll ever do'.

"When I went on leave, I had a list of jobs that I wanted to get done, but after four days, I crossed it out and wrote a list of things to achieve with the kids - I wanted to make sure I enjoyed every moment with them.

"I was walking my daughter, Phoebe, to school one day at the beginning of my leave and she said to me, 'I love that you're taking me to school Daddy', and I said, 'not as much as I do'.

"Even when I had to take my youngest, Ted, to the hospital, I didn't just hear about it from my wife. Tania when I got home from work, I was actually there and I got to experience the concern, reassurance, relief and empathy of it all," Mr Polling said.

Taking paternity leave has been a valuable experience in giving Mr Polling a new perspective on work, life and family.

"I've come back to work with a new sense of why I do what I do, and that is to provide for my family," said Mr Polling.

"Giving men the time off they need with their families gives them a sense of purpose and increases their productivity - it gives you a whole other reason to get up in the morning.

"I haven't come back hiding that I've had leave, I'm proud to tell everyone how good it was, but also how lucky and privileged we are to have these opportunities."

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