Young children will benefit from spending more time with their fathers if national policy on paid parental leave were to change, says a Tasmanian men's advocate.
Discussions are afoot in the paid parental leave space that currently sees the Federal Government pay fathers two weeks of minimum wage leave, and mothers 18 weeks of leave, which is only paid to fathers or other caregivers in exceptional circumstances.
Federal Labor have indicated an intention to look at changing the policy in this area, which could include all parents having shared access to 20 weeks paid parental leave.
Meanwhile, organisations such as Hydro Tasmania are already providing equitable access to parental leave, offering 15 paid weeks to any new parent or caregiver.
Men's Resources Tasmania secretary Jonathan Bedloe said many social benefits would arise from a change to national parental leave policy.
"It is good for mums to possibly be able to get back to the workforce quicker, it is good for dads because we know that when they are more involved and engaged with their children they have a closer connnection, and there are better long-term social, health and wellbeing outcomes," Mr Bedloe said.
"Men, in many ways, have been excluded from family participation by policies that have preferred women as a primary carer," he said.
"When you are sharing as parents you don't see each other as a praimry or secondary carer, you are both carers, you are both parents and it is a false notion to suggest there is a primary carer."
Engender Equality chief executive Alina Thomas said equal parental leave would give both men and women the same opportunities to spend time bonding with and caring for infants.
"The role doesn't necessarily need to fall to women only, it can be a role that could and should be shared will all caregivers or parents in a family."
But Ms Thomas stressed that any change to policy would require framework that allowed the leave to be equally accessible to everyone, and it would require active promotion in workplaces.
"We need to make sure that men feel comfortable to take parental leave, that the leave is supported, that there isn't any stigma attached to doing that," she said.
"One of the ways that works well is where the leaders within an organisation are modelling that behaviour, so men in positions of leadership and influence need to be taking parental leave, working flexible hours, and showing their peers and colleagues that this is a normal, acceptable and rewarding thing to do."
Ms Thomas said changes in the broader culture, to support men in traditional feminised roles, also needed to take place.
For Mr Bedloe, this would mean overcoming the traditional pressures on men to be the main breadwinner.
"We know that men do still feel that, so if we just wait for men to take up leave without having a conversation about why they should do it, and why it is good for them and their kids, then the take up is going to be slow," he said.
"There are going to be barriers from employers with this, just as there are with women returning to work, so we need to be proactive in promoting these policies from the start."
He said implementing such policies in traditional male dominated industries, such as mining, required a focus on the importance of fathers in their children's lives.
"If we don't do it in male dominated industries then we are missing a massive opportunity, for our kids if nothing else," he said.
"Kids benefit from dads being present and the sooner we start that in their lives the better the outcomes are going to be."
Tasmanian Womens Council member Mary Duniam said shared, equal parental leave would be a positive move for families, and could also help and encourage women back to work earlier.
But she added that those working in small family businesses might still find it difficult to take the leave.
"If the father is running a business, and if he has to take less to stay at home, that loss of income might become an issue."
Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Bailey said consultation with the business sector about any changes to leave policy was necessary.
"We would welcome a discussion about how to help new parents stay engaged with the workforce. It's important to recognise the vital role that both parents play," Mr Bailey said.
"However, the government needs to have a conversation with the business community to make sure there are no unintended consequences that will hurt the business sector and ultimately parents."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.