A year since it started, Greater Western Water’s gender-neutral parental leave policy is achieving its goal of breaking down stereotypes.
Of the 31 employees who have used the policy so far this year, more than half (17) have been male.
The policy was updated in October 2022 to remove the concept of primary and secondary carers, allowing every employee to access 16 weeks paid parental leave in up to three blocks over two years.
Employees were also able to access parental leave with no wait period and a superannuation top up on return. IVF treatment, foster care placement and pregnancy bereavement are also included.
GWW’s Chief People Officer, Louise Meadows, said the organisation was proud to see parents taking up the policy.
“We strive to be a family friendly organisation because we know how much that means to our people,” she said.
“We took the opportunity to replace the old, outdated policy to remove the idea of ‘primary’ carers, because we knew this was reinforcing old gender stereotypes. I’m so happy to see this policy creating the positive change we hoped for as a progressive, diverse and thriving organisation.”
GWW Operations Centre Team Leader James Hibbert took parental leave earlier this year to welcome his son Liam into the world. It’s James’ second child – he’s also the proud dad of 2-and-a-half-year-old Ariana.
He took an initial four weeks leave and a fortnight of annual leave, starting end of May, so he could be there for the “busy and exciting transition time” of Liam’s birth and first six weeks.
“I also wanted to save some parental leave for when he is a bit older to allow for my wife to be able to get back into the workforce,” he said.
James said his parental leave was extremely well received and needed, especially as he and his wife’s families live largely overseas.
“The policy was a huge help for my family. I feel blessed to have been able to spend that important time being there with my family and my son. I don’t think I would have been able to manage all the competing demands of my busy work life and personal life without having dedicated time off,” he said.
“The best experience for me was the birth and excitement when the doctor lifted up my baby to show we had a son. The other great experience was just being here for my daughter in the transition and for her to feel like she wasn’t forgotten and was able to understand what was happening.”
So, would James encourage others to take up parental leave?
“Absolutely. Having leave for this moment in time is fantastic to be there for your baby and create those memories that just cannot be replaced. It leaves you with the ability to be as present in the moment without competing priorities and concerns.”