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Why we’re taking a bold stance on parental leave at Brighte

For Kirstin Hunter, Brighte's gender-neutral paid parental leave policy is a bold step towards driving equality in the workplace and the home.

By Kirstin Hunter

07 September 2021

When I had my daughter, I was fortunate to have amazing support from my employer. There was a big focus within the business on rethinking the way we help employees with children thrive in their careers - that experience opened my eyes to what’s possible if businesses think long-term about supporting employees during these life stages.

From a business perspective, a good parental leave policy simply makes sense. Research has shown it improves retention and gender diversity, which helps promote a more equitable environment and better decision-making.

 But it goes beyond that.

At Brighte, we’re on a mission to make every home sustainable. For us to deliver on that mission, we need our people to be able to bring their best selves to work. This doesn’t mean they’re robots who just show up and work for a set number of hours a day and do what their boss tells them to do - it means they are complete people who can bring the best of their creativity and intelligence to solve complex problems that have never been solved before!

We recognise that having a life outside of work spurs people to bring energy and creativity to their job. And we want to do all we can to support our employees in having a thriving and satisfying life, inside and outside of work.

Our new paid parental leave offer

Our strategic purpose at Brighte is to ‘power a brighter future, today’. But no matter how good the dream, we’ll never get there without the team. To that end, we recently introduced 20 weeks of paid parental leave for new parents, regardless of their gender or their path to parenthood.

Where a staff member is also the birthing parent, they are entitled to an additional four weeks of leave, which we think of as ‘birth recovery’. This acknowledges the fact there are physical and medical factors associated with delivering a child that can necessitate more time off work.

There’s also a lot of flexibility around how leave can be taken, so if a staff member wants to spread it out over a longer period, they can take part-time pay for 40 weeks as opposed to full-time for 20 weeks, or staff may even want to take the leave a day or two a week over a longer period of time. On top of that, we continue to pay superannuation during the first 12 months of parental leave.

Rolling out this policy has been a huge win for us and one that will genuinely help foster a holistic life for all our people – regardless of gender or life stage.

Driving equality in the workplace, and the home

We know from research that women spend substantially more time on unpaid household duties than men. This disparity increases in heterosexual couples after marriage, and again after children. For us at Brighte, it was a real wake-up call to have candidates – both men and women – make their acceptance of a job offer subject to a parental leave allowance.

It goes to show that in 2021, top candidates don’t want to just show up to work and sacrifice their lives for their job. They want the opportunity to live full, equitable lives – and it’s up to us as employers to support that. Having a gender-neutral parental leave policy allows all parents to take an active role in caring for their families, and encourages equality at home as well as at work. This is why The Grattan Institute launched their Dad Days campaign (https://grattan.edu.au/report/dad-days/) calling for changes to the Government's paid parental leave scheme that would make it easier for both parents to access an equal share of parental leave.

In designing our policy at Brighte, we looked at a bunch of big names like Patagonia, Atlassian, Canva, Linktree and Spotify. One common factor that allows these companies to be brave is that they’re privately held and the founders still hold a major investor stake - this means that the founders and their investors can make a call based on their values and the type of business they want to create, rather than a more traditional big-business approach of looking at the straight cost-benefit analysis. Such cost-benefit analysis often fails to capture the nuance of potential "benefits" from building an engaged and empowered workforce that can tackle big problems.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every employer, I think businesses can always strive to do better. I’m thrilled we’ve taken a bold step at Brighte to help power a brighter future not just for our customers, but for our own people.