National architecture and design practice Gray Puksand has introduced an industry-leading gold standard policy for paid parental leave that offers up to 18 weeks’ paid leave for parents.

This path-breaking Paid Parental Scheme is part of Gray Puksand’s refreshed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Framework, which is driven by the three pillars of People, Planet and Community, and aims to increase diversity and inclusion, and achieve gender equity.  

The scheme extends up to 18 weeks (90 days) of paid leave for all parents, ensuring all mothers, fathers, LGBITQA+, non-birth parents, adoptive, and surrogacy parents have the same access to paid parental leave, superannuation top-ups, miscarriage and other associated leave.

Additionally, the paid leave is offered in days, not weeks, enabling families and soon-to-be parents the flexibility to take time off in ways that suit their individual lifestyles, when and as needed. It also allows parents to be able to take time off within the first year to see family overseas, or to assist during a transition to paid childcare, or return of another parent to work.

“True equity is about providing the same rights and cultural support to all. Our new Paid Parental Scheme is focused on improving family relationships and breaking down stereotypical norms, enabling everyone to succeed and enjoy the benefits of a well-balanced work and family life,” says Seton Walsh-Rose, Gray Puksand national people + culture manager.

“Our Parental Leave Scheme was designed with an enormous amount of consideration and consultation. Research shows that, by allocating men the same rights as women, we enable a more equal family and domestic life, thus allowing a higher percentage of female parents to return to the workforce and reducing the gender gap,” adds Walsh-Rose.

“Additionally, by offering flexible days, parents can share the load through this important period, enabling both parents to experience the joys of parenthood, and enabling women more choice to return to work.”

The scheme has been well-received at the practice with 11 per cent of staff already accessing or planning to access the program. Positively, all eligible fathers have taken up the initiative including senior associate Nick Shearman and interior designer Luis Carvajal, two of Gray Puksand’s first fathers to use the scheme.

“In lieu of parental leave, I would have likely used annual leave, unpaid leave or a combination for the initial time off. The financial security of parental leave means the pressure to return to work early is no longer present,” says Shearman.

Carvajal added, “I was able to support my partner and be there for her, allowing me to create a bond with my baby and build special memories. This is something that wouldn’t be possible without this parental leave program.”

According to partner Craig Saltmarsh, the scheme allows the practice to show support to staff when they decide to start or extend their family and to help their transition back into work. “This is an industry-leading policy that offers equal opportunities for women and men – it’s one of the tools that contributes to the outstanding culture we have here at Gray Puksand.”

“Being a mother myself and in a same sex relationship, it was important to remove the divisive language around birth, primary and secondary parent status and to expand the definition of parent to include those going through the surrogacy process,” says Walsh-Rose.

“By also including leave where miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death occurs, we recognise the emotional and physical impact this has on a person, and actively embrace the message that it is ok to take some time for your family to go through the appropriate grieving process and all this entails.”

The Paid Parental Scheme complements the practice’s broader targets to achieve equal gender representation within the Board and Shareholders representation – with a notable goal of achieving 50 per cent gender equity within its Partnership level before 2030. Initiatives within the CSR Framework further include an extensive Gender Equality Plan, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse, First People’s, Mature Age and Young Professionals and an LGBTIQ+ Employee and Inclusion Plan.