Pioneering parental leave equality

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Materials scientist Professor Marc in het Panhuis is joining a small handful of Australian men leaving the workplace temporarily to assume the role of primary caregiver.

“Surely six months is old enough to take the baby out surfing with me every day,” he laughed.

“My wife owns her own business and my presence at home means she can go and run her business again, rather than leaving it up to other people,” Marc, whose baby Alice was born in April, said.

While the statistics for males taking parental leave are rising in Australia, the numbers are still shockingly low. Less than two per cent of parental leave takers in Australia are men, according to a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The results are unsurprising for Marc.

“It’s really common in places like Europe, but I think Australia is lagging behind in that sense.”

Until recently Marc was the Associate Dean (International) of UOW’s Faculty of Science Medicine and Health. His recent work includes a 3D printed surfboard fins project that allows surfers to fine-tune their performance. Marc is taking nine months off to support his wife as she returns to the workplace, and says he couldn’t have done it without the support of the University.

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“The Vice-Chancellor and the University have taken a big step forward in this space. When one of my other children was born almost 10 years ago, males at UOW only had access to five days of parental leave.”

UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings, CBE, says the University has a wide range of strategies and initiatives in place that are working towards achieving gender equality.

“Our generous parental leave is available to all genders and we ensure flexible work arrangements are offered where possible,” Professor Wellings said.

“The challenge we are faced with is assessing, reviewing and changing our organisational structures to make sure that cases such as Marc’s are supported and happen more frequently.”

Meanwhile, Marc is looking forward to the new challenge.

“As a working parent I am always juggling the time balance between family, work and life. I can’t wait for the change of pace and for all the time I’m going to get to spend with my daughter.”

(Source: University of Wollongong)

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Date Created: August 3, 2016