New research by ING shows the COVID pandemic has heightened the parental leave challenges Aussie parents face.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further enhanced the challenges faced by parents with new babies, with over two thirds (67%) saying they need their partner on parental leave to share responsibilities during the COVID period, according to new research from ING.

Parents surveyed say: limited contact with family and friends (65%), the feeling of isolation while raising a baby (59%) and a lack of ‘down time’ from parenthood (56%) have all contributed to them needing more support from their partners.

The research, which surveyed parents who have been on parental leave during the COVID pandemic, marks a year since ING became the first bank in Australia to give employees equal paid parental leave, removing references to ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carers in its parental leave policy.

ING’s Head of Retail Banking, Melanie Evans says:

“The COVID pandemic has amplified the need for parental leave equality in Australia, but this is by no means a new issue and one we know Aussie families need addressed.”

“One year ago we launched an industry leading parental leave policy to give both parents an equal 14 weeks of paid parental leave. We did this to remove the stigma associated with parental leave and to acknowledge that each family is different and needs more flexibility in order to juggle the range of challenges that come with welcoming a child into the family.”

“Today, the number of ING fathers taking more than two weeks parental leave has increased fourfold since this industry leading policy came into effect in September 2019.”

Despite new parenting challenges posed by the pandemic, there have also been unexpected benefits for parents as workplaces better understand the challenges of family life. A third of fathers say their boss is “more understanding” of their parental responsibilities (35%) and believe their colleagues are “more compassionate” after seeing their family life on video calls (33%).

“Perhaps the silver lining of the pandemic is the fact it has helped improve the understanding of what it’s like to juggle work while raising a family in Australia and encouraged more employers to flex according to the needs of working parents and carers,” says Ms Evans.

ING research also revealed:

Parenting guilt: Partners of primary caregivers felt torn between work and family commitments during COVID-19 (40%) and that the leave they had was not enough to support their partner after their baby was born (33%).

COVID-19 concerns: Over half of new Aussie parents are challenged by limited exposure to other parents with babies (56%) and concerned about being unable to source essential baby items due to panic buying (51%).

Lack of down time: Almost half say they haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy alone time away from the baby (45%) and a quarter say they’ve limited time with their partner (26%).

Flexi work: COVID-19 has positively changed the perception of flexible working, with a quarter of parents having enjoyed being able to work from home and spend more time with family (27%). Three in 10 fathers have also said a more flexible workplace has made them more likely to ask for paid parental leave in the future (29%).

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