Monthly Archives: June 2014

Is your existing PPL scheme at risk under the Government’s current proposal?

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The Federal Government’s proposed paid parental leave scheme is a positive move for small businesses, but could force a difficult decision on large employers with generous paid leave initiatives already in place, according to Diversity Council Australia CEO, Lisa Annese.

The Coalition’s proposed scheme will give new mothers 26 weeks of paid parental leave (PPL) at their actual salary, or the national minimum wage (whichever is greater), plus superannuation.

Payments are capped at $50,000, and the plan builds on the existing Government-funded scheme, which was introduced under Labor and provides for 18 weeks’ leave at minimum wage, with no superannuation contribution.

While the DCA is extremely supportive of any measure to provide paid leave to new parents, the Government’s proposal has left many employers uncertain about the future of their own PPL initiatives, Annese told HR Daily.

“A lot of our employers already have really good paid parental leave schemes in place so they’re confused as to what they’re going to do. Do they use this as a top-up? Do they scrap their existing scheme? And then, if they do scrap it and replace it with this one, what if a new government comes in and changes it? 

“There’s just so many variables and so many unknowns, and so businesses are quite confused and concerned,” she says.

The Government’s plans to fund the scheme through a tax on big businesses is also worrying, given these companies are often ahead of the curve when it comes to their own PPL schemes, Annese says.

“Large companies who are DCA members are concerned that they’re being imposed [with] a significant cost to fund the program and that that’s not fair, because they’re already providing generous paid parental leave programs for their staff members,” she says.

“We’ve actually done a lot of work as a sector to try and get organisations to implement paid parental leave schemes as workplace entitlements, as they would with sick leave [or] with annual leave, and to put them in a position now where they’re going to have to choose is difficult, because if it changes in the future, then do we go back to the drawing board and start again arguing for paid parental leave?”

Annese believes that if the scheme is introduced, employers will choose either to get rid of existing arrangements in favour of the Government initiative, or use them as a supplement.

“For organisations that will choose to top up and keep their schemes in place, well that’s amazing but I don’t know how many of them will be able to afford to do that,” she said.

The Government’s scheme is, however, good news for SMEs, many of which do not have initiatives of their own in place, says Annese.

“The people who’ll benefit most from this are smaller businesses, and I suppose for them it’s a different question altogether,” she says.

“It obviously will help small businesses, because employees will be able to take paid parental leave at their replacement wage. So that’s a major win for them and they don’t need to bear the burden of the cost.”

Childcare a higher priority for employees

Feedback from DCA members suggests childcare improvements are a higher priority for new parents than a more generous PPL scheme, says Annese.

“Most of our members already have PPL schemes in place, and so they think it’s overkill and they’d prefer that the money went into childcare,” she says.

Consultation with DCA members for its submission to the Productivity Commission’s ongoing review into childcare highlighted three key areas in which improvements are needed: affordability, accessibility and availability.

“Really what their staff members are telling us [is] what they need to continue engaging in the workplace is not a focus on parental leave now, but a focus on childcare,” Annese says. 

“The three pillars that come up all the time are around the availability of childcare, which has a lot to do with regulation; the accessibility of childcare, so not enough childcare spaces basically; and the affordability of childcare, so the push from certain individuals who want to see the tax system reformed so that childcare can be either legitimately claimed as a work expense, or that there’s some other sort of tax restructure that makes it more affordable.”

Superannuation addition a win

One big positive the proposed PPL scheme has over the existing Government-funded arrangement is the addition of superannuation, added Annese.

“[Mothers will] have access to superannuation, which is something that lots of paid parental schemes have not had in the past,” she says.

“Including superannuation into paid parental leave is important, because that’s one of the things that contributes to a labour market work-gap deficit in terms of pay for women by the end of their careers.”


First published: 24th June 2014

Source: HR Daily


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Uncover hidden demographics to tailor your rewards

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‘Hidden demographics’ among employees can provide more useful insights into how to create an effective rewards scheme than those most commonly used, according to EY partners Rohan Connors and Richard Kantor.

Their research shows things such as whether employees were hired or acquired factor significantly in employees’ response to rewards schemes. Meanwhile benefits like workplace flexibility, typically targeted at female employees, show no correlation with gender in terms of who appreciates them most.

These findings are important because many workplaces spend vast sums of money on employee reward programs, often with very little research into what kinds of things employees actually want, they say.

“The piece that’s missing is what do employees want,” Kantor told HR Daily ahead of this month’s webinar on reward strategies. “Designing a reward package, in my mind in today’s competitive world, is analogous to a product design exercise, and I don’t know any organisation that would go out and do product design without getting input from the customer and testing different design options against customer input. But virtually every organisation designs their reward package that way.

“We’re defining reward here broadly as everything we provide to our people that they find valuable and rewarding. So it includes things like career development and opportunities, performance management in addition to pay and benefits.”

Unlikely insights

One concept frequently ignored by workplaces trying to draw insights from their data is hidden or latent demographics, Kantor says. While a lot of workplaces gather data on their demographic composition in terms of gender, generation and so on, fewer use their technology to “reverse engineer” demographic groups who express similar wants, needs or preferences.

“Instead of saying ‘how do the preferences and wants and needs of men and women differ?’ you’re saying ‘where have we got people who have similar preferences and what else is the same about them?’ to try to uncover where you have groups in the organisation that may respond in a similar way to new programs or changes to your existing programs,” he says.

Connors says this can bring valuable insights in terms of how to target your rewards program.

“People traditionally think women want more workplace flexibility, but latent demographic studies show it’s actually people with childcare responsibilities, and it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female,” he says. 

This could help employers improve engagement and workplace satisfaction among male workers, Connors says. “In many workplaces, male access to flexible workplace arrangements is not as easy. While they have the same responsibilities they don’t get the same support.” 

Whether a person is single or married also frequently determines his or her response to benefits such as health insurance or time off. “Single people tend to value health insurance in a different way to people who are in couples,” he adds.

Further, Kantor says base pay level is often a better predictor of employee wants and needs than any other demographic.

“We looked at data where people were in their 20s and 50s. Their base pay was the same and what they wanted from the rewards package was similar, because they were basically trying to satisfy similar needs if you put aside where they are in their life stage,” he explains.

“Whereas people who were very high earners, irrespective of whether they were old or young, male or female, tended to want the same things from the rest of the package.”

Another interesting latent demographic was whether employees chose to join an organisation or whether they became part of it by default because their previous company was acquired.

“Engagement of acquired employees was a few points to several points below the engagement of those who had chosen to join, and this was true even 20 years later,” Kantor says.

This dissatisfaction had gone unaddressed for too long, he says. “For those people it just wasn’t exactly the deal that they had signed up for. They weren’t really there by choice. So it’s a demographic that many don’t think of.”

Get a better return

Kantor says every workplace has an opportunity to get better value from its rewards program in terms of the perception employees have of the generosity of their employer. He has not yet discovered a client whose current rewards package is on the “efficient frontier” of value-for-money. 

“Which means everybody is leaving money on the table,” he says. “You should either be getting a better return from the money you’re spending, or if you’re happy with the return that you’re getting with the level of engagement and productivity and satisfaction and competitiveness that you have, you could be achieving that by spending less.

“For some organisations, this could be a choice between rebalancing the package and cutting jobs.” 

Many workplaces are either guessing what their employees want, or simply offering similar packages to those of their competitors.

“Employee engagement is hovering around 50 per cent nationally and globally which means one out of every two workers is disengaged,” Kantor says. “Which means just copying what everyone else is doing is maybe not a good plan.”

Kantor and Connors will explain how to understand what employees really want from total reward packages, and how to increase the returns from your available spend, at our webinar on 26 June. Learn more or register here as a casual attendee.

First published: 12 June 2014

Source: HR Daily


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45% of working parents believe they will not (or only somewhat) benefit from the new PPL scheme – but why the lack of confidence?

PPL InfographAlmost half of working parents believe they won’t benefit – or will only somewhat benefit – from the new proposed changes to the Paid Parental Leave scheme. But why is this so given the new scheme is significantly more generous than the current scheme?

A Parents@Work poll conducted last month found that 55% of working parents believe they would benefit from the Federal Government’s proposed PPL scheme.  Whilst this is over half, a significant 45% believe they will only somewhat benefit or have no benefit at all from the revised scheme.

Over 3000 parents and employers from across a number of sectors and demographics were asked to participate. With 20% believing they would ‘somewhat benefit’ it appears that at least three quarters of those polled find some comfort that the scheme will work in their favour

The findings are illuminating in light of market research by private ALP polling company UMR[1] who reported the majority (58%) disapproved of the scheme with only 16% approving it[2].

The question is: Is the new PPL scheme the solution Australian parents are hoping will ease their transition back to work? 

Budget 2014/15: The Gender Lens – a recent report by The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) – stressed a significant hurdle for women wanting to make the most of the new PPL: “Adequate and affordable childcare for pre-school age children is essential and on this matter the budget does not provide for adequate funding for integrated policies.”

Emma Walsh, Director, Parents@Work comments: “Our recent poll results highlight that not all working parents are 100% confident in the new PPL scheme. The actual issue we’re looking at is female workforce engagement. Paid parental leave is one part of the equation in increasing the rate of women returning to work after children but the other is the legitimate shortage of affordable childcare in this country.”

A notable highlight from The Gender Lens paper was reference to OECD[3] data indicating the rate of employment amongst Australian women with children less than 5 years of age is 49% – 17% lower than the OECD average of 66%[4].

Walsh says: “The OECD data suggests we should be doing a lot more to support women to return to work earlier. The proposed PPL scheme may be a start but if we are to increase confidence in all Australian parents we need to look at alternative support mechanisms to do this. Freezing Family Tax payments is not be the thing mums want to hear when it comes time to pay their hefty childcare fees. When taking a more holistic outlook on the barriers for women wanting to reenter the workforce the new PPL scheme is really an incomplete answer.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 1.27.01 PMWhat would help families more – paid parental leave or better access to affordable childcare?

Many believe investment on childcare would be a greater support to families if the objective is to boost women’s workforce participation. A few critical studies have supported this sentiment.

Grattan Institute research shows that the two major factors influencing female workforce participation are marginal tax rates and the net costs of childcare. It found that ”government support for childcare has about double the impact of spending on parental leave” in influencing women’s workforce participation.

In support of this the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling found that ”take home rates of pay after childcare costs, tax and forgone welfare benefits are the primary drivers in the female workforce participation rate”.[5]

Parents@Work will be conducting another poll to find out what companies want most from the Government to help support their return to work.

See the Parents@Work info graph summarising the poll findings as well as some other interesting statistics that relate to the PPL.




[1] UMR are market research company who conduct private ALP-commissioned polling on specific measures

[2] SMH, Budget hole opens up, viewed 6.6.14,

[3] “The mission of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world”, viewed 6.6.14,

[4] Includes 34 OECD member countries

[5] SMH, Is there a better way to help mothers return to paid work? Viewed 6.6.14,



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What to do when an employee asks for more flex

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You’re all for workplace flexibility: Your employees work from home or adjust hours to meet family or personal needs. But now a staffer wants even more schedule shifting—and you have concerns for the health of your business. Take the lead in talking about mutual needs, says Ken Matos, director of research at Families and Work Institute, with these steps.

Start with the problem. Employees can get stuck on suggesting a solution they’ve thought about without realizing all the possibilities. Have your staffer describe his actual flex needs. Then review his job description—with and without him—to figure out which of his job functions are absolutely essential, and which can be traded around to open up more time for him.

Consider a team effort. Take a look at how your whole team can be involved in the solution. Many employees are happy to help one another, especially in the name of mutual support. But don’t underestimate the requesting employee. Even with a high-demand caregiving situation, he may be able to take on more than you think. Make sure you ask before assigning— or not assigning—work.

Take care of yourself. Supervisors often forget they can’t support their staff if they don’t support themselves. Acknowledge how you feel: sympathetic to your employee, worried about team productivity, frustrated over another request. Then you’ll be able to see to the needs of your employee, ensuring that he can keep his career and income intact while you continue to hold down the proverbial fort.

Source: Working Mother


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If you want the best people you will have to be flexible

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A common excuse for lack of women in leadership is that many potential female leaders choose not to return to their roles following the birth of a child — so we can’t promote women if they have taken themselves out of the leadership pipeline.

If you flip the argument for a minute and ask yourself how you are going to attract and retain the best people as leaders and senior managers, as I did, then you will inevitably find yourself enabling flexible work arrangements, as I have done.

My approach to my leadership team was to find the best people that the budget would allow. As a result of starting with the people, and working with them on mutually agreeable conditions, six of the most senior people in the company, including two editors, are women who have returned to work part-time following maternity leave. The other four women lead the finance, marketing, editorial and HR functions. As well, there are a number of women within departments across the business who work part-time. Our entire finance department, for example, is female and all work part-time.

In a very short space of time we have proven that flexibility attracts the very best talent and that with careful planning and consideration it is possible to retain quality female leaders once they start a family.

The key considerations are as follows:

  1. Manage expectations about what can be achieved in a shortened working week. It doesn’t work for anyone if a part-time worker feels that there is an expectation of 24/7 availability. I often email interesting articles I have found to my team on the weekends (in case I can’t locate them again on Monday morning) but make it clear that the receiver isn’t expected to read or respond before the first day of their working week.
  2. Be flexible within the flexibility. Every one of Private Media’s part-timers works a flexible arrangement that best suits their needs, which are often shaped around childcare. One works four shorter days, another works three full days and two half days, while others work the equivalent hours of 2-4 days across 2-5 days.
  3. Ensure the days worked also match the business needs. If all of the women in the finance department wanted to work the same three or four days, for example, the impact on the efficient and effective functioning of the business could be negative. So while it’s important for staff retention and happiness that the business is flexible to their needs, it is equally important to determine if the flexibility is a fit with the business.

Do you have a success story to share on flexible working arrangements for leaders or potential leaders?

By: Marina Go, CEO of private Media

First published: 30th May 2014

Source: Women’s Agenda 

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