Over the past year, Transgrid has seen a huge increase in the number of men taking parental leave and in an organization with a predominantly male workforce this is a huge achievement. This is a result of their new primary care leave options, as well as initiatives to empower men across the organization to take parental leave, something that Grace Papers was able to support through coaching and access to our digital platform.
David Fayyad, Group General Counsel at TransGrid shared his journey:
“I found that the personalised experience of the coaching offered by Grace Papers prompted me to think through the opportunities in balancing career and care in a different way. My coach helped me to identify and break down any stigma and bias in relation to taking time off and adjusting a career to care for a child, and also to normalise the support required for any person to navigate a career transition.”
We spoke with Julie Moss, Diversity Inclusion & Wellbeing Manager, to get the full story of how Transgrid has equalised the gender-balance of employees taking parental leave through inclusive changes to their policies.
What was your initial challenge when you engaged Grace Papers at Transgrid?
As a male-dominated company in an equally male-dominated sector, parental leave policies and processes had been geared around women being the primary carers. Men were catered for with two weeks of secondary leave and so the approach was very gendered. Some women were not having a great experience when they returned to the workplace after taking primary care leave; unsure of how to negotiate their return and their managers needed assistance in holding those conversations too. There was no support for those taking secondary care. Even though the 2 weeks of secondary care could be taken at half pay, we noticed that most men were using their annual leave to increase the amount of time they were taking off around the birth of their babies. Our parental leave policies and procedures needed to be reviewed and ‘de-gendered’ and this would take time, so the quickest and easiest first step we could take was to introduce the Grace Papers coaching program for primary and secondary carers so that all parents experienced a level of support and consistency they hadn’t had previously.
How did Grace Papers answer your challenges?
Firstly, it showed mums and dads that we were serious about supporting their return to the workplace, regardless of whether they were male, female, first-time parent or otherwise. Secondly, it provided a consistency in approach which led to better experiences for all our parents and the conversations they were having with their managers. The Grace Papers coaching platform allowed employees to access information for whatever stage of the parental journey they were on, confidentially. Once we had reviewed our parental leave policy and made a number of significant changes, we worked with Grace Papers so that they were aware of the offering and could communicate this if required during the coaching sessions. It is most definitely a partnership.
What have been the benefits of improving the employee experience and driving gender equality at a cultural and systemic level with Grace Papers?
Since implementing primary care options for those taking secondary care to convert to a primary care arrangement at any stage during the first two years to allow a partner to return to the workplace, we saw more men stepping forward to take this leave.
When the coaching program was introduced, many men did not see the need or importance of having a coaching session for taking two weeks leave. Only a couple decided to take up the offer initially. Through word of mouth from male colleagues who had participated, more and more began to see the value, regardless of how much time they had taken off. Some were struggling with sleep deprivation, some had no other family support, some had partners who were suffering from postnatal depression; some were struggling with the guilt of returning to work whilst their partner ‘did all the hard work;’. Some men shared their stories widely and encouraged others to be open about their experiences.
The program also aligns with our mental health and wellbeing program that encourages people to speak up about anxiety and depression, and encourages help-seeking behaviour. And this is what we saw. It became ok for men and women to have conversations about the struggle, rather than to hide it and return to work as if nothing had happened. Generally, women have traditionally (and rightly) feared for their careers when returning to the workplace after having a baby. By leveling the playing field, and enabling access to the same leave for all, it becomes a human issue rather than a gendered one for which women carried the burden.
What results are you seeing with workplace culture, staff retention and attracting talent?
As well as creating the care policy, we introduced superannuation payments for the unpaid portion of any leave, lessened the wait time to 6 months to access leave, added stillbirth provisions, and were more explicit about including surrogacy, adoption and same-sex parents in our policy as well as adding a subsidy for vacation care. We are seeing more of our men work part-time as our parental leave options allow for flexibility. It is good to see the pressure taken off women, who can now see their male colleagues also applying for and taking parental leave. We are a company with traditionally low turnover, and the downside of this is there are fewer options for promotions or secondments for others in the organisation. With more people taking primary care leave, either as full time or part-time arrangements, space is created for others to step up, act in a higher grade role and generally create some internal movement that wasn’t there previously. This has helped with retention.
What do you think made men in your organization take up parental leave in such large numbers?
In 2022 we increased the paid parental leave offering from 14 weeks to 20 weeks. Partners are able to take 2 weeks of partner leave at the time of birth but are then able to take up the option of 18 weeks to be commenced at any time during the first year of birth when their partner returns to work. If their partner returns part-time, they can apply to take their leave spread over part-time hours. It’s a great win for Transgrid families. With the policies now in place, the coaching provided by Grace Papers and the internal promotion and support we have given the overall offering, men have felt empowered to utilise the leave.