Aurecon’s parental leave policy encourages parents to experience new ways of combining work and care

"Looking after Jack full-time has been the most fulfilling, enriching and enjoyable time of my life" says Tom Wallent, Senior Structural Engineer and Dad to Jack (nearly 1) from Aurecon.

In August 2017 Aurecon introduced a new Parental Leave Policy, which offers three main ways for all parents (including single or same-sex parents) to care for children in the 12 months from when a child joins a family (through birth, surrogacy, adoption, foster or kinship care). They are:

-              14 weeks paid leave (if both parents are Aurecon employees, they are both eligible)

-              14 weeks paid parental leave interspersed with days of work (e.g. 3 days of leave, 2 days of work per week)

-              14 weeks of 150% salary if an Aurecon employee’s partner takes unpaid leave (i.e. their employer does not offer paid parental leave) to care for the child, enabling the Aurecon employee to return to work.

Aurecon pays superannuation on paid leave and for an additional 14 weeks during unpaid leave (if taken). Eligibility for paid parental leave is currently three months’ service. Importantly, we know that parenting doesn’t stop when children reach 12 months. Our flexible working arrangements, including YesFlex – varying start and finish times, provide a framework for ongoing care for children (and elderly relatives or relatives with a disability, or to manage other interests and commitments outside work).

Since the introduction of the current parental leave policy, the proportion of paid parental leave taken by men has more than tripled and the joy expressed by our Dads is priceless. We also offer two weeks paid partner leave, which can be taken concurrently with the other parent.

Let’s hear some more from Tom:

What impact is the parental leave policy having on your family?

My wife Laura is very happy that I now know how to look after Jack day in day out, and everything that comes with that, and I’m incredibly grateful. I guess you don’t really know what you’re missing out on until you are given the opportunity (or take the opportunity!). It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding!

What makes the policy work so well?

To be able to get to spend quality time with your child for an extended period without the stress of work on your mind is amazing! The other key aspect is that it has also allowed me to experience, understand and appreciate all that is involved with raising a child which has traditionally been undertaken by a female. As such, I believe the more men who can have similar experiences will not only find it extremely rewarding but it will also help the team culture and empathy regarding parenting (eg sleepless nights, childcare dropoff/pickup etc.). I expect this will lead to more understanding and hence flexibility within the office, which will lead to a greater level of enjoyment and staff retention at work. Personally, it will definitely impact how I manage and care for my team. In addition, my wife was able to return to work earlier than she would have without my leave, which she really appreciated.

How are you staying in touch with Aurecon during your leave?

I have brought Jack into town for a couple of the team lunches which has been good. Aside from that, my colleagues will contact me by phone about anything important but otherwise it’s very nice to not have to check any emails (though my unread has gone from 0 into the 1000s which is new for me!).

What’s your advice to other parents or future parents?

I highly recommend it! I would also encourage them to take 100% leave rather than work part-time, as it makes the experience so much more rewarding as you are 100% committed to your child and are not thinking about your next email!