From the Commissioner - Making offices family friendly
The adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is still often used. Many employers would have heard it, and there may be a few who have said it themselves, however when it comes to managing employees’ family responsibilities not all employers assist its practise.
On 1 July this year Baker McKenzie will become the first law firm in Australia to announce gender equal parental leave by removing the definitions of ‘primary carer’ and ‘secondary carer’ from its policy.
All eligible employees who welcome a new child will be entitled to 18 weeks paid leave regardless of whether there is another parent at home.
These employees will also have up to two years from the birth or adoption of a child to take their paid parental leave, rather than 12 months.
This is progressive policy that sets an outstanding example, not only for the legal industry but every industry in Australia.
As Chair of Baker McKenzie Diversity and Inclusion Committee said, “gender neutral parental leave policies help us move away from women having babies to people raising families.”
Western Australia still lags the rest of the country with a gender pay gap of XX.
Part of that is the expectation women will leave full time work to care for children, and workplace policies reinforce that gender stereotype by providing incentives to primary carers who are often, women.
However, companies need to also make it easier for men to fulfil family responsibilities and for secondary carers to support primary carers, so that both may be able to access work and family in a balanced way.
Organisations need to be aware that family responsibility discrimination in employment in Western Australia is unlawful.
It does not matter what position you hold in an organisation, if you need to care for a family member you should be able to reasonably balance this with your work responsibilities.
Due to an illness in the family I, like many grandparents in Australia, have significant carer responsibilities and am fortunate to have flexible working arrangements that allow me to meet both my carer responsibilities and my responsibilities as Commissioner for Equal Opportunity.
Balancing these responsibilities is important and rewarding for all of us. I strongly encourage all fathers and grandfathers to take time to do it when they can.