Human Resources

“Not doing this would be silly”: ING ditches ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ labels and adopts equal paid parental leave

Angela Priestley /

Australian bank ING has made an important leap on paid parental leave equality, becoming the first bank in the country to give both parents equal access to 14 weeks’ paid leave, removing ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ labels in the process.

“We are a contemporary, modern employer trying to attract people to work for us. Not doing this would be silly,” ING’s head of retail banking Melanie Evans told a forum while announcing the launch in Sydney.

ING’s chief executive officer Uday Sareen agreed it was a no-brainer, saying the new policy took about “30 seconds” to approve when it came up during an executive meeting.

ING is offering all parents who have been with the business for more than 12 months the option to take the leave all at once, or at a time that’s convenient to them within the first two years.

To coincide with the new policy, ING also released the findings of a survey of more than 1000 Australians that finds 69% believe ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ labels promote unequal levels of caregiving work and three-quarters want paid parental leave equality.

Evans said workplaces need to challenge these labels and assumptions made around caregiving roles in order to promote shared care in Australia.

During a panel session on caregiving last week, ING also promoted something that is still too rare in corporate Australia: men talking about work-life balance and discussing how they manage at home.

Father of six Justin Coulson told the forum about some of the challenges he’s encountered in their busy household with two working parents, noting that things “fall through the cracks” but “thankfully not the children”.

“The house is a mess. We miss appointments. It’s hard to get that balance. But we’re as intentional as we can be. We have planners and organisers, and do meetings. We get the diaries out and figure out who is going to be where.”

He said the ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carer labels no longer resonate with him, as they both care for their kids based on who is available.

He also cited a number of studies regarding the benefits of men of getting involved in childcare — including everything from increased levels of happiness and wellbeing to living longer.

Will Kiln, manager of mortgages at ING, also spoke on the panel, sharing his experience of currently being on parental leave with his eight-month-old daughter.

But he concedes the did find it difficult asking for leave, and had to get through the stigma in his own head about it.

“I was my own worst enemy with it. I’ve personally not seen another male take significant time out to have a kid.”

He’s not alone. ING’s survey found the stigma of taking leave as a secondary carer still exists, with half of the respondents (50%) saying they would feel less justified in asking for paid parental leave as a ‘secondary’ career.

Hopefully with this policy from ING — and the other employers now offering it, including Medibank Private and Baker McKenzie — that will soon change.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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Angela Priestley

Angela Priestley is the publisher and founding editor of Women's Agenda. She's an author, journalist and passionate advocate for workplace gender equality and diversity. Her first book is Women Who Seize the Moment.

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