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    Medibank re-writes the ‘rules’ on parental leave

    Dad to be James Timms

    Medibank introduces new FamilyFlex policy to mark International Women’s Day

    In recognising that every parent should have the same opportunity to play an active role in their child’s early life, Medibank will tomorrow launch its new flexible paid parental leave policy.

    All eligible prospective parents, regardless of whether they’re the primary or secondary carer, will be able to take 14 weeks of paid leave within the first 24 months. This includes taking leave at the same time as their partner. This significant change sees Medibank leading the way nationally in encouraging equal and shared parenting responsibilities.

    Medibank Group Executive of People & Culture Kylie Bishop said: “Our employees told us the old policy lacked flexibility, and didn’t acknowledge that all families and babies are very different. So we are removing the labels of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carer completely. Instead they’re a parent.”

    The new policy, called ‘FamilyFlex’, offers greater choice to new parents regardless of gender. It’s also flexible - parents can choose to take their 14 weeks leave across two different periods within the first 24 months. Under the previous policy, the primary carer would be eligible for 14 weeks paid leave in one block, and the secondary carer could take two weeks of paid leave.

    Ms Bishop added: “We want to change the story and provide greater flexibility and participation in carer responsibilities regardless of gender. Parental leave disproportionately affects female employees and it shouldn’t.”

    “Many men don’t feel comfortable asking for parental leave at all. We want to remove any barriers that prevent men from playing an active role in their family.”

    In February 2017, Medibank introduced ‘FlexBetter’ - offering all employees flexibility on how and where they can work. Last year, close to all employees returned from parental leave, with most still with Medibank a year later. At present, this cohort is disproportionately female however by introducing FamilyFlex, Medibank aims to balance things out with men and women accessing parental leave via the new, label-free and more inclusive policy.

    Ms Bishop said: “We’re proud that Medibank’s senior leadership group is split evenly between men and women. We don’t want to lose any employees after they become parents, but we also need to ensure that our leadership pipeline remains strong. If parents who want to work are leaving because they need greater flexibility, then they’re unable to progress with their career.”

    Medibank also provides external and confidential executive coaching to all new parents, ensuring they can still invest in their career when on leave.

    Research from specialist career platform and return to work training company, FlexCareers, found 47% of primary carers in Australia receive no additional parental leave entitlements from their employer, instead relying on 18 weeks tax-payer funded parental leave at minimum wage. For secondary carers, the outlook is less positive, with only 25% offered additional leave.

    FlexCareers CEO Natalie Goldman said: “The majority of employers in Australia continue to assume that women take responsibility for childcare, with parental leave entitlements structured accordingly. We’re encouraged by several employers moving to language such as ‘shared care’ and generous paid leave for all parents. However, Medibank has taken this one step further, by offering all parents an equal number of weeks at their full salary.”

    Medibank was also named last month as an ‘Employer of Choice for Gender Equality’ by Workplace Gender Equality Agency for 2018.

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