Australians want primary and secondary labels for parental leave gone, study finds

by Freya Lucas

August 21, 2019

New research, commissioned by ING, has shown that the idea of a primary and secondary caregiver is “outdated”, with Australian families seeking equal parental leave for both parents to ease the pressure involved when a new baby arrives. 

 

More than three quarters of those surveyed by GALKAL (comprising of 1,028 Australians aged 18-75+ years distributed throughout Australia) believed that both caregivers – no matter the family dynamic – should be permitted to equal leave after the arrival of a newborn, with 75 per cent of parents feel they need more than two weeks leave to bond and connect with baby. 

 

The research formed part of an announcement by ING that they today became the first bank in Australia to entitle both parents to an equal 14 weeks of paid parental leave, and removed references to ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carers in its parental leave policy.

 

Half of men surveyed felt that the label “secondary carer” meant they had less justification in seeking to extend their parental leave after the birth of a child, while two in five men said they felt their colleagues or boss would judge them for taking extended leave. 

 

Speaking on behalf of ING, Head of Retail Bank Melaine Evans said “There’s no one way to define today’s modern family, each with a unique structure and range of challenges. 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.”

 

Ms Evans said she hoped that by acknowledging that no two families are the same, and that all parents deserve equal entitlements and flexibility, the process of taking leave, particularly for those once considered secondary carers, would be normalised. 

 

The removing of the labels may well have an impact, psychologically, on those taking parental leave, with 69 per cent of respondents believing that the terms ‘primary caregiver’ and ‘secondary caregiver’ promote unequal levels of caregiving work in families.

 

The research further revealed that Australians believe equal parental leave will have a positive effect on families, including strengthening the family unit (85 per cent), ease the pressures of raising a child (77 per cent) and allow both parents to bond with their child (68 per cent).

 

Of the same-sex couples surveyed, 78 per cent agreed that the removal of the primary and secondary carer labels is more inclusive, and half agreed that their removal reflects modern family life.

 

Dr Justin Coulson, parenting expert and father of six, also commented on the research: “The first few years in a newborn’s life are paramount for both parents when forming a close attachment with their child. It’s the time when we see them grow, recognise their unique quirks and ultimately develop an everlasting connection.

 

“As a working father, I understand the conflict between career and parenting commitments, particularly when there are financial pressures involved. So I’m thrilled that employers are changing with the times and doing more to help accommodate the needs of new parents and ease the burdens they can encounter.”

 

To learn more about the research, or to read the information provided by ING in full, please see here. 

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