Leading the change: Fender Katsalidis introduces equal parental leave



Nicky Drobis, director of Fender Katsalidis, with her family. Photo by Kristoffer Paulsen.

Featured | Workplace

By Momoko Metham

Architecture firm, Fender Katsalidis, is introducing a new parental leave policy that will give eight weeks of full wage paid parental leave to both men and women, without distinguishing between primary and secondary caregivers.

All team members, including those working part-time and on a casual basis, will be eligible, in addition to any government entitlements.

A superannuation top up to the full annual level in the first year is also part of the policy for full-time and part-time staff.

“We are proud to make this announcement and show our genuine commitment to giving equal opportunities to both men and women,” said Fender Katsalidis director, Nicky Drobis.

“It is rare to find a parental leave policy where men and women are treated the same, as there are often clear distinctions made,” she said.

This comes as Finland’s Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, just recently called for reform to improve gender equality by giving fathers the same seven months paid parental leave as mothers.

Currently in Australia, employees can be paid parental leave from both the Australian government and their employer.

The government schemes include the Paid Parental Leave which gives new parents up to 18 weeks’ leave at the national minimum wage rate and the Dad and Partner Pay, which is a two-week leave paid at the national minimum wage rate.

“The current government policy can be considered archaic and the private sector must lead the charge in introducing a superior and more contemporary approach to supportive parental leave,” said Drobis.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, although the provision of employer-funded paid parental leave reached a six-year high in 2019, over 50 per cent of employers still provide no access to employer-funded paid parental leave.

“Access to paid parental leave is highly dependent on the size and industry of the employer,” they said.

Paid primary carer’s leave is most commonly offered in Education and Training and Financial and Insurance Services and least frequent in Retail Trade and Accommodation and Food Services.

Of those employers offering paid primary carer’s leave, 7 to 12 weeks is the most common length of leave period while only 4 per cent of employers offer 18 or more weeks of paid primary carer’s leave.

Drobis said their new policy addresses “the gender imbalance as well as the gender pay gap in terms of both regular salary and superannuation.”

With over 38 per cent of Fender Katsalidis’ staff being parents, the policy forms part of a bigger plan for the practice.

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“It is one piece amongst our long-term plan to address inequality that will enable women and working mums to succeed and become a bigger part of our practice at a senior level,” said Drobis.

Research by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency similarly recognises that parental leave can “enhance women’s workforce participation.”

Drobis said the policy is an investment in staff that they hope will “spark meaningful change within our practice, the design industry and workplaces more broadly,” whilst also being a response to the societal shift of a more shared parental load.

Overall, women account for 71.5 per cent of all parental leave while men comprise the remaining 28.5 per cent.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency revealed that providing paid paternal leave is highly beneficial in the creation of gender equality through helping shift gender norms and reducing child and flexibility related stigma in the workplace.

A mother herself, Drobis has three children aged eleven, nine and seven.

“There is a huge need for parents to be supported during what is both a joyous and demanding stage of life,” said Drobis.

Organisations which provide strong parental leave schemes are likely to have better recruitment and higher retention and promotion rates.

Fender Katsalidis’ new parental leave policy has come into effect from 1 January 2020 with a two-year qualifying period.

You can read more about companies who are doing their bid for gender equality with their paid parental schemes here.

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