ING Make Parental Leave Equality History as First Australian Bank to Remove Primary / Secondary Carer Labels

“By acknowledging that no two families are the same and that all parents deserve equal entitlements and flexibility, we hope to normalise the process of taking leave, particularly for those once considered secondary carers.”

Melanie Evans – Head of Retail Bank, ING

Australian working families have spoken, and the majority want equal parental leave for both parents.

New research commissioned by ING shows that 76% of Australians believe that both caregivers should be allowed equal leave after the birth of a new baby, contrary to many organisations’ current parental leave policies which divide carers into ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’, often only allowing primary carers paid leave.

The research further showed that 27% of parents worry about missing out on bonding time with their newborn during the first few weeks, and 75% of parents feel that they need more than two weeks leave – which is often the amount given to dads.

“The concept of primary vs. secondary carers only perpetuates stereotypical gender norms where women are expected to do the caring and men are expected to the earning,” says Emma Walsh, CEO of Parents At Work. “Equal, shared parental leave helps to break this cycle, encourage a more equal division of unpaid and paid work, and importantly, improve the work-life balance of Australian families.”

ING has just become the first Australian bank to entitle both parents to an equal 14 weeks of paid parental leave, and have removed all reference to ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carer labels in their policy. The leave can be taken all at once, or at a time that is convenient, within the first two years.

ING’s research showed that half of men feel that they have less justification asking for paternity leave when they are labelled a ‘secondary’ carer, so the new policy aims to remove the stigmas often associated with fathers taking leave.

This new research is indicative that the Australian modern family is indeed changing, and with it the older ideas of gender norms in the home and workplace.

“There’s no one way to define today’s modern family, each with a unique structure and range of challenges,” says Melanie Evans, Head of Retail Bank at ING. “Workplaces therefore have to question their own assumptions around the caregiving roles once assigned to mums and dads. Our findings tell us they no longer apply.

“By acknowledging that no two families are the same and that all parents deserve equal entitlements and flexibility, we hope to normalise the process of taking leave, particularly for those once considered secondary carers.”

And Australians are recognising the positive impact that equal parental leave on their home life, with 85% agreeing that it strengthens the family unity, and 77% believing that equal leave eases the pressures of raising a child.

Furthermore, more than three-quarters of same-sex couples agree that removing the primary and secondary labels is more inclusive, and more than half say that the carer removal reflects modern family life.

“This new research encourages us even more to continue our work with Australian companies in improving their parental leave policies,” says Emma Walsh. “Many, like ING, have realised that to be an industry leader and an employer of choice, they need to adapt their parental leave policies to suit the changing needs of Australian families – and removing carer labels and making parental leave equal for both parents is a major part of that.

“We’re proud to have supported ING in evolving this fantastic new policy, and hope that it inspires other organisations to do the same”.

Statistics taken from ING Press Release 21 August 2019, ‘Australia votes ‘yes’ for parenting equality: Families call for removal of primary and secondary caregiver labels’.