SBS dads’ doing it their way

Modern parenting is all about equal responsibility, flexibility and robot dancing, according to these School of Biomedical Sciences dads, who have recently taken advantage of the University’s parental leave scheme.

Did you know the University of Melbourne provides fathers 14 weeks of paid parental leave and 28 weeks for those with more than five years of service? It also offers a return to work benefit – 12 weeks salary – which can be used to cover childcare costs.

A recent study co-authored by McKinsey explored the experiences of new fathers who had taken extended paternity leave. The results were overwhelmingly positive. From improving families’ relationships and finances, to generating increased enthusiasm among fathers for the employers that supported them, the benefits of paternity leave extend from the home to the workplace, and beyond.

Some of the findings from the report include:

  • Paternity leave is associated with greater relationship stability, with 90 per cent of respondents noticing an improvement in their relationship with their partner.
  • Paternity leave was shown to level the playing field for working mothers and reduce the gender wage gap within households. Mothers’ incomes rose about seven per cent for each month that a father spent at home on paternity leave.
  • Many fathers felt more motivated after taking leave and they are considering staying in their organisation longer.
  • Respondents reported that paternity leave led them to change the way they work, becoming more productive and prioritising their time better.
  • Fathers were able to build stronger relationships with their children, which will last long into the future.
  • 100 per cent of respondents were glad they took the leave and would do so again.

With Father’s Day approaching it seemed an opportune time to talk with a few of our own ‘new dads’…

Maximilien Evrard with wife Junyun and daughter Eloise

(Right) Dr Maximilien Evrard with partner Junyun, also an early career researcher working at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and their daughter Eloise.

“I feel the University of Melbourne is setting a great example and I hope this inspires other institutes to implement similar policies,” says Dr Maximilien Evrard, a Research Fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and proud dad to 6 month old daughter, Eloise.

“I think it’s important to normalise dads taking parental leave,” says the McKenzie Fellow in the Mackay Laboratory. “Being a primary carer has given me a better appreciation of the challenges many parents, and especially women, face when trying to juggle traditional gender roles and their careers.”

Hamish McWilliam with Atlas and Sunday

(Left) Dr Hamish McWilliam with son Atlas and newborn daughter Sunday.

Dr Hamish McWilliam, who works across both the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology, adds dads taking parental leave is a step towards reducing the career gap between women who are primary carers and fathers or partners who continue working after childbirth.

“It may not be possible for every situation, but if you are a dad-to-be and work at the University, it is worth exploring your options,” says the Group Leader in the Villadangos Laboratory, which investigates how bodies recognise microbes in order to initiate immune responses.

“I first took three months in late 2019 after the birth of my son Atlas, and I am about to take six months from September 2022 as we have recently had a little girl, Sunday.”

Dr Brendon Chua and son Ollie

(Right) Dr Brendon Chua with son Ollie.

Dr Brendon Chua, a Research Fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, took four months parental leave a month after his son Ollie was born in late 2020, and another three months when his wife returned to work in 2021.

He says shared parenting responsibilities has made for a positive and equitable family environment. “Sharing primary care-giving duties has also helped our son form strong connections with both us.”

Dr Chua encourages parents-to-be to consider what type of leave would be most useful for you, your partner and the circumstances. “Being transparent about this to supervisors, especially about the leave duration and if flexible arrangements are needed, is also important.”

“The highlight for me is seeing Ollie develop; forming his first smile and laugh, worshipping the moon together and more recently robot dancing after his baths!”

Stephan Kaiser and son Maximilian

(Left) Stephan Kaiser with son Maximilian in Germany.

Stephan Kaiser, Senior Administrative Officer in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, began six-month full-time leave on 1 August this year.

His young family recently travelled to Germany to visit family and friends. “We had such an amazing time and loved seeing our son Maximilian take it all in in awe.”

“Being a full-time parent now that my wife is back at work is demanding on a day-by-day basis, not to mention the overnight feeds. However, we’ve been able to more evenly share the joy and responsibility of raising our son. Plus, I’m a lot more appreciative of how hard it was for my wife in the first six months after our son was born, she made it look so easy.”

“I encourage staff to take leave when you are starting a family and make sure you know about all the leave entitlements.”

To find out more visit: University of Melbourne Parental Leave.

By Harriet Edmund