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ANU Expands Paid Parental Leave, But Advocates Think More Should Be Done

ANU has announced that they provide up to 26 weeks of paid parental leave to employee’s partners, but the National Tertiary Education Union has warned that ANU still fails on key gender equality indicators.

Vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt announced the move at an International Women’s Day forum on Thursday as part of a combination of policies that aim to improve working conditions for female academics at ANU.

“Increasing flexibility in paid parental leave entitlements and supporting the role of partners in caring for children will help address gender inequality at the university,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt also committed to a goal to have 50 per cent of executive roles held by women.

And while the NTEU welcomed the move, they suggested that more needed to be done to achieve equality for women in the university workplace.

“We’d like to see them do more – including achieving Employer of Choice accreditation from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency as many other universities have,” NTEU ACT division secretary, Rachael Bahl, said. “We know there is a lot more ANU can do to support women.”

Commenced in 2014, the WGEA Employer of Choice accreditation is only offered to organisations that hit a number of gender equality targets in areas such as leadership, pay gap, flexible working conditions, and harassment statistics.  

Universities in Australia that have the accreditation include the University of Canberra, Monash University, the University of Technology Sydney, University of Wollongong, and Western Sydney University.

One specific issue that the NTEU targeted was insecure employment arrangements for women. According to the NTEU ACT division assistant secretary Cathy Day, women at ANU are held back by casual working arrangements, and “no pro rata access to ANU’s paid maternity leave for women in the first 12 months of employment.”

International Women’s Day was first established in the 1900s. The day has historically been dedicated to the celebration of and discussions surrounding the gender pay gap – in recent years, the question of paid parental leave has entered mainstream discourse.

In 2017, Goodwill ambassador and actor Anne Hathaway centred her International Women’s Day speech around this issue, saying that “paid parental leave is not about taking days off work, it’s about creating the freedom to define roles.”

ANU’s paid parental leave program was negotiated as part of the university’s enterprise agreement for 2017-2021.