In a bid to create more inclusive workplaces, many SAGE Subscriber institutions have reformed their parental leave entitlements to remove the terms maternity and paternity leave in favour of the gender-neutral terminology of primary and secondary carer leave. This is clearly a win for non-heterosexual couples and for parents who do not identify with a binary gender.
However, it is clear that this language is still problematic for equity, setting up expectations that one parent, in many cases the gestational parent, is the ‘primary’ caregiver, with the other parent taking a ‘secondary’ role, rather than the childcare being equally shared. This can have the knock-on effect of positioning one partner’s career as primary and the other’s as secondary. In heterosexual relationships, this often disadvantages the woman, since men rarely take primary carer leave.
There are a number of ways Institutions can move towards a shared, gender-neutral, inclusive approach to parental leave, starting with recognising how significant a life event becoming a parent is.
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