w21: The 21st Century Womeninleadership

The workplace shift to replace maternal leave

Traditionally, the idea that exists in our society is that women should go on leave when they give birth in our society. This popular maternal leave is now being challenged with a combined leave policy that works better.

Many OECD countries have implemented parental leave policies and part of their family policies. It is designed to protect and support working parents around the time of giving birth to a child, adoption, or during the young age of the children. By making paid parental leave available for both genders, it is now easier to ensure the equal division of paid work and unpaid care while improving the work-life balance of families. However, the percentage of men who use parental leave is still low.

One of the areas where inequality between gender still exists strongly in our society is in wages. While progress has been made in reducing the gender inequalities in areas such as education, workforce participation, and health, the pay gap remains an area where gender equality is still very much needed.

The current parental leave policy works perfectly with the family-friendly and inclusive workplace practices which promote a work-life balance for men and women. Many employees have to combine work responsibilities with that of caring for their children, and statistics in 2018 showed that more families now have two working parents instead of the traditional family structure with only one working parent. Despite the radical changes in structure, women are still more responsible when it comes to caring for the children. Employers can play a great role in changing this by encouraging men in their employment to take an active part in the caring of children; this will help reduce the disproportionate responsibility that women shoulder at the moment.

With the introduction of the paid parental leave scheme by the paid parental leave act in 2011, there have been some changes in the traditional roles of caring for children. This legislation used a gender-neutral approach when it comes to carer roles. However, it is still being underutilised by men which goes to show that workplace culture and attitude gas have not shifted significantly in line with the law. In a heterosexual relationship, male parents are less likely to identify as a carer and will take lesser time off work, further reinforcing the stereotype of women as the primary caregiver for young children. Research has shown that if both parents take more time off work to care for the children, the idea that the caring work should be shared between both gender will be normalised and the attitude to distributing work at the workplace and home will change, thereby driving gender equality in our society.

By increasing the number of men that take parental leave the idea of equality in the workplace will become more achievable because the belief that men are the breadwinner who must do paid work all the to take care of their family will greatly reduce.