The Parental Leave Gap – Let’s change the narrative

What if hiring managers valued periods of parental leave rather than seeing them as a gap in employment history?

I was chatting with a recruiter this week about her experience and regularly witnessing hiring managers discounting candidates (consciously or unconsciously) because of a period or multiple periods of parental leave.

Compared to other candidates without these ‘gaps’, these candidates are seen to lack a year or multiple years of relevant experience.

Let’s challenge this assumption for a moment – “Parental leave is a gap in your resume”.

Anyone who has looked after a newborn or has cared full-time for someone will testify – this is likely the hardest role you will ever have. Ever.

It is relentless.

And people who have endured a year or more of it need to be given credit for how they have developed:

✔️ resilience and perseverance

✔️ problem solving and resourcefulness

✔️ their ability to deal with significant change

✔️ time management and productivity

✔️ emotional intelligence

✔️ their ability to manage pressure and stress

✔️ leadership through adversity

This linked article gives options to explain your parental leave, but when you consider what is actually involved, shouldn’t it be considered an asset to your resume rather than a question mark requiring an explanation? ❓

No period of work experience can accelerate your development in the same way as looking after a child.

Comparatively, parents who continue to work whilst their partner stays at home looking after their child, regularly quip to colleagues that going to work gives them a ‘break’.

So why does parental leave persist to be viewed as a ‘gap’?

Parental Leave can be taken by both men and women, but despite its name, it is very much targeted at mothers. It is explicitly for ‘the birth mother’, only transferrable to a partner under certain conditions.

The result is most parental leave – and almost all primary carer leave – is taken by women.

In 2017-18, less than 0.5 per cent of Australian parents using the scheme were men.

While some employers provide generous schemes for both mums and dads, very few men take primary carer leave – even rarer for a newborn. Most paid schemes for secondary carers are not particularly generous with 8 days average leave.

Ergo, because very few men have endured it, Parental Leave is viewed as a gap rather than an asset in work experience.

Patriarchy at play.

This is why organisations need #blokecoaching in order to help men to understand how the system perpetuates gender inequality.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the Bloke Coaching Podcast, Episode 3 – Mind The Gap with Kaya Hoye