Supporting gender equality and flexible working arrangements

Supporting gender equality and flexible working arrangements

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Nick Mead sitting on a couch with his daughter, Lucy
Nick Mead and his daughter, Lucy.

At Victoria Legal Aid, our generous paid parental leave provisions are designed to support gender equality, encourage flexible working arrangements and let our staff know that employees with families are valued.

Enabling both parents to take leave reinforces gender equality by helping to foster an equal division of unpaid care, allowing more women to return to work and improving family work-life balance.

Our Data Services Reporting Manager, Nick Mead, recently returned to work after taking a year of parental leave to raise his 15-month-old daughter, and knew he always wanted to spend substantial bonding time with Lucy.

‘Starting a family was a difficult journey for my wife and I, so we were both keen to embrace the experience as much as possible, and I just couldn’t imagine taking a few weeks leave and then heading back to work. Taking the year off allowed me to spend significant quality time with Lucy, and enabled my wife to continue working part-time,’ said Nick.

Parenthood is challenging at the best of times, but Nick agrees starting the journey in the midst of a pandemic added an additional degree of difficulty.

‘Lockdowns definitely made things more difficult – not being able to see family and friends, and not being able to access support services or being limited to phone consultations, certainly challenged us. It took almost a year for my family to get to see Lucy, and my sister had two flights cancelled before she was able to get here in January. That was frustrating, but on the plus side, the 8 pm curfew had absolutely no impact on us whatsoever!’

Learnings from the parental leave experience

As for what he learnt, Nick thoroughly recommends taking parental leave when it is available.

‘I had literally no idea about babies to begin with, so pretty much everything was a learning experience. My time away taught me a lot about organisation and patience, given babies keep to their own timelines, and love being unpredictable just to keep you on your toes.

‘I also learned some interesting skills, like how to bake a loaf of bread one-handed while carrying a sleeping baby.

‘Ultimately, the most memorable moments were being there for the ‘firsts’. The first smile, the first laugh, the first words, the first steps … I was privileged to be there for all of them, and would have missed them all, had I been working.’

Apart from his personal growth as a parent, Nick also feels fathers learn so much more by taking a significant period of parental leave as the primary care giver.

‘My time away from work gave me a far greater appreciation of the challenges facing women while raising a family and juggling work commitments.

‘There’s a huge difference between understanding something on an intellectual level versus a lived experience.

'Obviously, having a child is a transformative experience under any circumstances, but the first few months are particularly life-changing, and I’m glad I got to enjoy that experience.’

Our strong support of parental leave provisions

Associate Director, People and Culture, Daniella Calkoen is proud of our organisation’s support for new parents.

‘Creating a safe, supportive, flexible and inclusive workplace is important for us and helps encourage recruitment and retention of staff.

‘Our flexible arrangements include the option of requesting changes to hours or patterns of work, part-time and job share arrangements, working from home arrangements and having access to flexitime and overtime provisions.

‘Nick is a great example of how we can help our staff find the right balance between their work and personal lives, and the benefits we offer staff considering joining our organisation,’ said Daniella.

There are many economic, social and organisational benefits to both parents taking parental leave, but sometimes they can be reduced to the raw basics.

‘There are a lot of mistakes you can unwind in life, but you can’t turn back time and revisit missed experiences,’ said Nick.

More information

Learn more about our Employee benefits.

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