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Nappy days: dads can be primary carers too

October 16, 2019

Rio Tinto iron ore driver Brendan Hocking is a proud dad for the third time, with the birth of young Percy this month.

While he’s an experienced dad, this time around will be different as he is taking primary carers’ leave to look after the baby.

With Brendan’s wife Hayley keen to return to her study and work commitments, his 14 on 14 off FIFO roster which takes him from Victoria to the Pilbara each fortnight would have become impossible.

While Rio Tinto initially knocked back Brendan’s application for primary carers leave, with persistence and support from the Union, the company granted him primary carers leave to care for Percy. As allowed for under company policy, Brendan will take 9 months’ leave at half pay to give him more time at home.

“This will make an enormous difference to our family,” said Brendan. “FIFO life is always difficult and even more so when there’s a new baby. It was a big relief to have the leave approved and know that I will be able to take care of Percy, Wesley and Frankie so that Hayley can pursue her study and get back to work.”

There is extensive research now to show that men taking more parental leave is good for families and many employers are introducing parental leave policies that are more gender neutral, to make it easier for men and women to decide how they will balance work and caring.

Data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows that just 5% of people taking primary carers leave are men. However, in order to increase men’s participation in parental leave, many employers are creating more flexible policies to make it more accessible.

For example, many policies (including Rio Tinto’s) allow for primary carers leave to be taken after and in addition to secondary carers leave.

That means a father could take a couple of weeks secondary carers leave at the birth of a baby, then later in the year take some primary carers leave if the mother is returning to work when the baby is six or nine months old.

If your family is welcoming a baby, make sure you read your company’s parental leave policy and begin discussions early about what kind of parental leave you could take. As always, if you have any concerns, contact the Union for advice.

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