Fathers Day: celebrating a nurturing start to new life.

As Father’s Day approaches, we thought it an opportune time to highlight the importance of dads taking time to bond with their families, the important culture shift in taking paternity leave, and to share the experiences of some SBS dads who have gained so much by accessing parental leave through UniMelb.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom. - Umberto Eco

There is a clear trend of fathers taking a more active role in co-parenting and taking on more of the primary caregiving role in their family. This shift is benefiting early child development, family relationships as well as strengthening the bond between father and child.

Parental Leave Policy in general is starting to better reflect this shift, and is moving towards more equitable models, evidenced by a better balance of leave options. Increasingly, these policies allow parents to “mix and match” between maternal, paternal, concurrent, adoption and surrogate leave, giving them greater flexibility to find an option that best suits their family needs.

And importantly, attitudes have changed --paternity leave is not only accepted, but encouraged-- with a recent report suggesting fathers do not take enough leave!

The benefits of paternity leave extend from the home to the workplace and beyond, as detailed in a co-authored McKinsey study which boasted improving families’ relationships and finances, to generating increased enthusiasm among fathers for the employers that supported them.

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.

Fathers are more likely to take paternity leave when their coworkers do, according to a recent article! So, let shine a light on some of the SBS dads who have taken paternity leave, and learn from their insights and experiences.

Nathan McBain, a Gebhardt Laboratory Research Assistant in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, took six months paternity leave in late 2019 when first child Arthur was 6 months old, and is planning another six months for his second child Connor starting this October.

“It’s a very special time in your child’s life and you don’t get a second chance at it, so enjoy it while you can!” is his advice to other soon-to-be dads. “I think the University has made big steps in providing equal parental leave entitlements to either parent, and the length of paid parental leave granted. This allows parents, and fathers in particular, to take a on a greater role from the beginning.”

Hamish McWilliam, a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the 2022 Fabienne Mackay Award recipient, “strongly recommends” parental leave to others, after taking three months in 2019 after his son Atlas was born, and six months after the birth of daughter Sunday in 2022.

“It is enriching and beneficial for your whole family”. “We need it to become normal” he said of paternity leave, “once that happens then academics may feel that parental leave is just a normal option rather than something detrimental to their career”.

Stephan Kaiser, Senior Administrative Officer in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology took six months paternity leave in late 2022, when son Maximilian was 6 months old. “I encourage staff to take leave when you are starting a family and make sure you know about all the leave entitlements.”

His advice to other dads: “You can read all the guides in the world but nothing prepares you for fatherhood. It is not about following a text book and trying to tick boxes. Go with the flow and just be yourself. And always be there. Not in a literal sense but when you are with your child, then be there 100%.”

Shane Doris Cheung, a BOMP Application Specialist in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry & Health Sciences, took two weeks concurrent partner leave and an additional week of annual leave to support his wife after she went into labour with daughter Saoirse. “It has helped build a bond with my daughter and helped us learn more about her” he said of sharing parenting responsibilities.

His advice is to “speak to someone who has been through the process. Not all information about parental leave is that easy to find through ServiceNow or the University website.”

Sunday is Father’s Day, and we wish everyone a relaxing day with special people they enjoy.

The University of Melbourne has a parental policy that offers paid and non-paid, con-current and primary carer paternity options to eligible staff. For more information visit the University of Melbourne Parental Leave.