Monthly Archives: December 2014

Well done Ezypay for leading the way with parental leave in Malaysia

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We’d like take this opportunity to congratulate one of our clients – Ezypay – for making a significant effort to improve their working parent’s wellbeing (indeed all their employee’s wellbeing) with leading staff incentives in the company’s Malaysian office (operating under iconnect360).  One of the perks for new mums is to give women developers 3 months fully paid maternity leave – which is leave well above the norm in Malaysia. One employee  comments on why supporting parents in those initial few months of parenthood is so vital: “The extra month (of maternity leave) really boosts morale and actually leaves you more refreshed and motivated to return to work.”

Want to know more? Here’s the company’s updated package…

iconnect360 Malaysia expands on existing work benefits, which already includes working hours that end at 4pm, travel opportunities to Sydney and comprehensive medical coverage for immediate family members.
3 Months Paid Maternity Leave

iconnect360 is also one of the few software companies to champion the career choices of female developers in the country – with over 50% of the organization comprising of female employees in professional and managerial roles.

For example, women developers are rewarded with an unprecedented 3-month fully paid maternity leave, making it possible for women to enjoy motherhood while also retaining a professional career at the same time. New mom Meera Krishnan who has worked at iconnect360 for over 2 years is currently on work hiatus to bond with her newborn daughter, Joanna Maree Klassen.

Krishnan says, “I love how the company understands that it’s not the three months’ worth of rest that’s important, but it’s the moment of bonding with my baby that’s most precious to me. I can’t put a value on the first three months of my daughter’s life – to be there for her and to get to know her, at every second and every minute, it’s priceless. I love that they understand that, and they respect it.

“It is extremely comforting to be able to care for your baby without worrying about the income. The extra month (of maternity leave) really boosts morale and actually leaves you more refreshed and motivated to return to work.”

The company’s insurance coverage also includes the protection of the employee’s spouse and child so female employees can enjoy the best of prenatal and postnatal care with no claims limit at any hospital of their choice.

Networking and Knowledge Sharing Events

Meanwhile, other female employees are also encouraged to expand their professional circle by actively participating in after-work networking events. iconnect360 is the main organizer of the country’s first Women Who Code (WWC) Kuala Lumpur chapter in hopes of promoting and encouraging the development of women programmers in Malaysia.

The company also runs a non-profit networking session for marketers, titled the Digital Marketing Meetup 360 (#DMM360) on a monthly basis. Since the launch of #DMM360 in June, iconnect360 interns, designers and developers have been empowered with first-hand experience in collaborating with other marketing giants such as Leo Burnett, Mindvalley, Zeno Group and the Star.

Gym and WiFi Subsidy

As a majority of iconnect360 staff are from Generation Y, new incentives introduced also include subsidies on gym and Wi-Fi connection at home. All employees may also petition for flexible working hours, depending on their personal needs and arrangement with their direct supervisor. While these benefits may not sound especially exciting, it is a positive sign that medium-sized software companies in Malaysia are now willing to find the right balance between providing competitive benefits to attract the right talent without risking financial mismanagement.

Birthday Holidays and a RM5,000 Holiday Overseas Trip for 2 Pax

iconnect360 latest employee incentives also addresses the popular demand for work-life balance via various leave options available – including marriage leave (3 days of holiday) and birthday leave (1 day of holiday the day before, on or after your birthday). Cayla Ng, who has been with iconnect360 for less than a year was delighted to discover that all new employees automatically qualified for a paid Birthday Holiday.

Ng says, “It felt like my birthday was a big deal to everyone in the company. It also makes me feel proud because when I told my friends and family about my paid Birthday Holiday, everyone said that this is a good company to work in. A one-day holiday might not seem like a lot, but it’s very special to all of us and it’s something that we all look forward to. I like it very much.”

Employees who have completed five years of continuous paid service are also rewarded with an all-expense paid holiday for two to a foreign country, up to a maximum of RM5,000.

On the other hand, iconnect360 also rewards motivated individuals who opt-out of utilizing their annual leaves by either converting the leaves into cash or rolling the holidays forward to the following year. In most Malaysian companies, annual leaves that are not taken by 31 December are usually wasted and the number of annual leaves an employee has is reset again on 1 January the following year.

Weekly Friday Breakfasts at Breakout Area

Meanwhile, the company also hopes to forge closer relationships and promote healthier dietary lifestyle at the workplace with weekly Friday breakfasts provided in the communal area. The weekly event provides an opportunity for new and senior staff members of different teams to mingle and create conversations while also encouraging all employees to practice healthy eating habits for long term health.

The latest benefits announced indicate that iconnect360 and Ezypay are remaining true to their Australian recruitment standard which places the wellbeing of its employees ahead of its products and services, even as the company is expected to enjoy steady financial growth for the next few years.

Brown says that, “Without a happy and satisfied team, we couldn’t have achieved the results that we have so far. It’s a very important part of our core values to maintain and improve on the standards where possible.”

Source: iconnect360

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Your Sneak Peek: Career After Kids NEW Series for 2015

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The “Career After Kids” series is designed to provide a vital network of support and information to assist working parents to manage work, family and caring needs through their life stages and career transition points.

Sneak Peek Video - Ask us FOR YOUR SNEAK PEEK OF THE CAREER AFTER KIDS SERIES by emailing info@parentsatwork.com.au

BenefitsGirl holding blank membership card

  • Improved access to caring support for all employees
  • Meet WGEA commitments and decrease potential pregnancy and caring discrimination issues
  • Build a broader, diverse talent pool of leaders that have the support they need to advance their career as they balance caring needs
  • Diverse range of topics to specifically address working parents and carers
  • Online access to forums for every employee
  • Automated and outsourced administration function run by Parents@Work

Supporting Parents

  • Preparing for leave
  • Returning to work, negotiating flexible work
  • Review career and wellbeing options
  • Balance work and family challenges
  • Maintain and develop their career while being a carer
  • Create opportunities to network with others

The participants are able to self-manage and can select their own course appropriate to their needs. For example, they may wish to complete both the ‘preparing for parental leave’ and ‘return to work’ courses.

The Career After Kids courses available in 2015 are:

1. Preparing for parental leave and staying in touch Course

- making the transition to leave easier

This course will benefit parents preparing for leave to ensure they have considered their transition plan as they go on leave; how they can stay in touch whilst on leave and obtain important tips & checklists on preparing, their entitlements and working while pregnant.

2. Returning to work and reconnecting Course

- planning and preparing work and family for your return & reconnecting once back

This course will benefit parents and carers who are currently on leave or have recently returned to work and who are looking to reconnect back to work, review their role, reintegrate with their team, negotiate more flexibility or are managing the transition from full time to part time.

3. Managing your career Course

-  working flexibly and balancing work & life

-  reviewing your career and life plans and making them work for you

This course will benefit parents and carers who want to review and discuss career plans, life goals or improve family balance or are experiencing changes in the workplace or at home they need assistance with.

4. Care for kids, yourself and others Course

- a guide to choosing the right care support needs for you and your family 

This course will benefit parents and carers who are looking to review their care needs and how to access support as required. This may include help to review child care needs or others’ care needs in the family – where to get ‘at-home’ support and more.  With a focus on helping balance carer needs and improving wellbeing whilst juggling work and family life.

A Career After Kids membership gives your employees unlimited access to all four (4) courses for 12 months.

Once enrolled in a particular course working parents will be sent resources and workbooks to work through and have access to a career coach. Once they have completed the pre-work, parents can participate in the online forum where their career coach will be available to answer any questions or provide further assistance needed.

Sneak Peek Video

If you have parents that would benefit contact us now FOR YOUR SNEAK PEEK OF THE CAREER AFTER KIDS SERIES. Or enrol your employees now. Email info@parentsatwork.com.au. 

 

 

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What’s going on in Australian workplaces? The ‘only’ percentages say it all!

Only 13.2% of employers have a strategy for supporting caring responsibilities

Only 15% of fathers request flexibility

Only 18.1% of employers have pay equity objectives

Two important reports have been released this past fortnight – The Australian Work Life Index 2014[1] and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s Australia’s gender equality scorecard[2]. Both are reality checks to the current state of carer and gender equality issues in Australian workplaces – statistical realities that employers will find hard to ignore.

Both are critical because they give us a clear, confronting look at what working life in Australia is really like. And whether we want to hear it or not it’s time to take notice. If we don’t the results could be perilous for families, society and our economy in the years to come.

The reports provoke a number of important questions we need to answer:

  • What does the high part-time and casual employment rates of women (40% women compared to 14% men) mean for the long-term financial security and living standards of Australian women come retirement age?
  • Why aren’t fathers of young children asking for greater flexibility?
  • How can employees manage work-life balance when only 13.2% of employers have a strategy for family and caring responsibilities?

We have more to add to the list (and we’re sure you do to!). But first, lets take a look at the key points of both reports. To wrap up we have also included key resources employers can use, share and embrace to help turn these dismal statistics around.

Key Highlights – The 2014 Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI)

“The Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) survey measures how work intersects with other life activities, as seen by a randomly selected representative group of 2,690 working Australians.” [3]

Highlights from the AWALI 2014 report titled The Persistent Challenge: Living, Working and Caring in Australia in 2014 include:

  • Australia is one of the most unequal countries with respect to men’s and women’s sharing of domestic and care work.
  • The greatest gender difference is evident for time pressure: women are more likely than men to feel chronically rushed and pressed for time, regardless of work hours.
  • Just over 1/3 of employees, men and women, prefer to work at least four hours fewer; this rises to 3/4 of those working long hours. Frequently working a combination of weekends and nights, or just evenings/nights, is associated with the highest work-life interference.
  • Most workers remain unaware of their Right to Request flexible work arrangements with only 20% actually making a request. Those most likely to make a request are mothers of pre-schoolers (40.6%). Only 15.2% of fathers of pre-schoolers made a request.

Eloquent snippets from the report…

 “The gender culture in Australia has proven particularly resilient, with contradictory norms that support women’s increased employment participation yet insist that mothers’ primary responsibilities are to their families.”

“Ensuring that less confident, less powerful workers, and more fathers and men, can also make effective use of this right [Right to Request flexibility] will require wider knowledge about the RTR and firmer legal protection around it – such as the right to contest a refusal that seems unreasonable.”

“Our findings indicate that unless the resources and supports available to women, and carers in general, are significantly improved, it is unlikely that their employment participation will significantly increase.”

Top 10 Highlights from the WGEA report – Australia’s Gender Equality Scorecard

The Australian Gender Equality Scorecard provides key results from the WGEA’s 2013-2014 reporting data.  It contains information for over 3.9 employees and 11,000 employers.

“This year, reporting to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency has yielded a world-leading dataset that paints the most comprehensive picture of gender equality in workplaces Australia has ever seen.”

Highlights from the report:

  • Only 13.2% of employers have a strategy to support employees with family or caring responsibilities.
  • Only 13.6% of employers have a strategy for flexible working
  • Only 7.1% of employers have a standalone overall gender equality strategy.
  • Women comprise only 26.1% of key management personnel (KMP) positions, and 17.3% of CEO positions.
    • Less than one in 10 (8.8%) organisations have set a target to lift the number of women around the boardroom table despite only 23.7% of directorships being held by women, and just 12.0% of chairs being women.
    • 24.7% the gender pay gap – full-time total remuneration
    • The highest base and total remuneration gender pay gaps are in Financial and Insurance Services (28.4% and 36.1% respectively).
    • Women comprise only 35.8% of full- time employees. They make up 75.3% of part-time employees and 57.2% of casual employees.
    • 48.9% of employers have a remuneration strategy or policy but only 18.1% of employers have pay equity objectives included as part of a remuneration strategy or policy.
    • 35.7% of employers offer paid parental leave in addition to government scheme for secondary carers of at least one week

Eloquent snippets from the report…

“Where an organisation had undertaken a gender remuneration gap analysis, the most common action taken was a review of individual remuneration outcomes nearly – 30% of employers took no action.”

“The data shows the leadership pipeline isn’t working: women struggle to get past the lowest levels of management, and they occupy only a quarter of positions in the top three levels of management.”

“That the gender pay gap widens from 19.9% to 24.7% when additional benefits such as bonuses are taken into account – highlighting that women aren’t getting equal access to elements of discretionary pay.”

Let’s take action now

Employers we ask you to share this information with your wider business community. We ask you to share it with your workplace culture influences, your employees and your internal policy makers.

If you are one of the employers who provided data to the WGEA you receive a confidential assessment of your performance compared to your peers which will help you focus gender equality efforts where they are most needed. See how other organisations performed here. Tap here to view data specific to your industry.

These reports confirmed to us how important our role is in leading the way for gender equality and parental rights in the workplace is. For those organisations counted in the positive performance stats we thank you for leading the way. Here’s to making your way the norm to turn these dismal statistics around.

Key resources for employers

Parents@Work Programs – provides end-to-end parental transition support programs + an online Portal for all parents and managers.

Career After Kids Forum 2015 Series – unique group learning sessions – online and face-to-face – for parents transitioning to and from leave, reconnecting back and balancing work and life needs.

The Gender strategy toolkit – provides a framework for achieving gender equality in workplaces, leveraging an organisation’s benchmark report.

The Guide to gender pay equity – outlines six steps to improving pay equity in workplaces, and is accompanied by a gender pay gap calculator.

The Gender target-setting toolkit – assists organisations to set targets.

 



[1] Skinner, N. Pocock, B. Centre for Work + Life University of South Australia, The Australian Work Life Index 2014, http://www.unisa.edu.au/Documents/EASS/CWL/Publications/AWALI_2014_national_report_final.pdf viewed 5.12.14

[2] WGEA, Australia’s Gender Equality Scorecard, viewed 5..12.14, https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/2013-14_summary_report_website.pdf

[3] Skinner, N. Pocock, B. Centre for Work + Life University of South Australia, The Australian Work Life Index 2014, http://www.unisa.edu.au/Documents/EASS/CWL/Publications/AWALI_2014_national_report_final.pdf viewed 5.12.14

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Women under-represented in management positions and are paid 24% less than men

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A new study has found that women make up just a quarter of those employed in the key management positions of Australian companies.

As well as an under-representation of women in management positions, the findings revealed the average full-time earnings of men were almost 25 per cent more.

One-third of Australia’s workforce was included in the data, with more than 11,000 employers reporting to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) on more than 4 million employees.

WGEA director Helen Conway said the results of the Gender Equality Scorecard were “ground-breaking” and proved gender equality needed to become a priority.

“It doesn’t matter how you look at it, women are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to climbing up the management tree,” she said.

A glass ceiling was evident at the first layer of management where women comprised 39.8 per cent of employees, but the number fell to 31.7 per cent at the next level of management – senior managers.

From the senior management level, female representation steadily declined with women comprising 27.8 per cent of executive and general manager roles in Australia, and 26.1 per cent of key management personnel (KMP) positions.

At the top management level, chief executive, women held 17.3 per cent of positions.

One-third (33.5 per cent) of employers had no KMPs who were women, and 31.3 per cent of organisations had no other executives or general managers who were women.

“There are significant cultural and structural barriers in workplaces that stop women from moving up,” Ms Conway said.

“One of the main cultural barriers is gender bias.” 

Ms Conway said there was a belief new mothers should be able to do some work but it was often not career-advancing work.

“Often women come back from parental leave and there is an assumption made that they won’t want career-advancement work, that their only priority are family priorities,” she said.

“Flexible work means more than giving new mothers poor-quality part-time work … it should focus on outcomes. So employers should say, ‘these are the outcomes we need from you, we don’t care how you get there’.”

Ms Conway said as well as more opportunities for women to move up the ladder, increasing the number women in the workforce would increase productivity and overall organisation performance.

“It makes sense to improve GDP by improving female workplace participation,” she said.

The G20 acknowledged the potential of gender equality recently by committing to close the workforce participation gap by 25 per cent by 2025.

“There is a strong economic case for organisation to increase female participation,” Ms Conway said.

“If you increase diversity in a workplace you improve innovation, decision making and organisational performance.”

Largest pay gaps in financial and insurance sectors

The report revealed women’s average total remuneration across all industries and occupations was 24.7 per cent less than men.

The figure was highest in the financial and insurance services sectors at 28.4 per cent and 36.1 per cent respectively.

Ms Conway said organisations needed to make flexible work “business as usual” without it being a disadvantage to career advancement so women could move up the management ladder and have the same access to discretionary pay as their male counterparts.

“There is a good business case for gender equality in Australia,” she said.

Strategic direction towards gender equality needed

Less than one quarter (24 per cent) of organisations have undertaken a gender pay gap analysis and less than one in 10 (8.8 per cent) of organisations have set a target to lift the number of women around the boardroom table.

Ms Conway said a purposeful strategic approach was needed to make lasting change within organisations.

“Organisations are not taking a strategic approach to gender equality. We are finding those that are trying have disconnected initiatives that are often ad hoc and are not going to lead to sustained change,” she said.

“Taking a strategic approach needs to come from the top. The leaders need to be driving the change for it to last and we’re not seeing that happen.”

Ms Conway said flexible work arrangements, paid parental leave and initiatives to prevent sex-based harassment and discrimination in the workplace were all enablers of gender equality.

Data from 11,000 employers covers 4 million employees

The findings were derived from data provided by Australian employers under new reporting guidelines.

This was the first full year of reporting since the new guidelines, which form part of the Workplace Gender Equality Act.

“I think this is very powerful … we’ve never had standardised, granular, comparable data before and it has come from a very broad pool within the private sector,” Ms Conway said.

“The data will inform policy makers, government and researchers and has broad appeal to stakeholders across the community.

“This data will keep on giving. This is the first cut and it will facilitate a lot of analysis.

“Employers will get a customised confidential benchmark report so they will have an evidenced-based report on how they’re going, how they’re tracking against competitors. Employers will be able to use the data to improve.”

New reporting framework

Under the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, non-public sector employers with 100 or more staff must report to the WGEA annually against six gender equality indicators:
  • Gender composition of the workforce
  • Gender composition of governing bodies of relevant employers
  • Equal remuneration between women and men
  • Availability and utility of flexible working arrangements
  • Consultation with employees on issues concerning gender equality in the workplace
  • Sex-based harassment and discrimination

The data released on Tuesday is derived from the first full year of reporting under this framework. 

For the complete results view the scorecard here.

By: Emily Clark and Rhiannon Hobbins

Source: ABC News

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Juggling paid work and childcare

Tracey

I felt very fortunate when my family was struck down with the flu recently, as I was able to access paid carer’s leave from my employer to look after my young son.

This happened to be the same week that the UniSA Centre for Work + Life published the findings from the 2014 Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) survey in the report The Persistent Challenge: Living, Working and Caring in Australia in 2014.

The study revealed that 44 per cent of Australian workers are juggling paid work and childcare, and nearly 20 per cent are caring for an elderly person or someone with a chronic illness or disability.

It also indicated that those combining two types of caring responsibilities, for example caring for a child and an elder, experience high levels of work-life interference and this has a major negative impact on wellbeing.

Unfortunately not everyone has access to family friendly benefits and flexibility in the workplace to help them cope with these competing demands.

The Australian Government introduced a Right to Request flexible work arrangements as part of the Fair Work Act 2009. Parents of pre-schoolers or children aged under 18 with a disability gained the right to request flexible work arrangements from 1 January 2010, and this was expanded in mid-2013 to include all carers and other select groups such as older workers. However this does not extend to all employees – for example those with less than 12 months’ service in an organisation.

The AWALI report found that around a third of working Australians would like to have a flexible work arrangement however they had not made such a request to their employer. This was largely because they did not believe that flexibility would be possible in their job or accepted by their manager. The research also found that only 40 per cent of employees were aware the Right to Request a flexible work arrangement existed.

In my office the fact that everyone, including senior management and those without regular caring responsibilities, accesses some type of flexible work arrangement helps to create a positive and supportive workplace culture in which flexibility is the norm rather than the exception. It is not viewed as an extra benefit available only to mothers of young children.

These flexible work arrangements my colleagues and I make use of include working part-time, working from home, varied start and finish times to accommodate school drop-offs and pick-ups or to avoid a long commute in peak hour traffic, and access to time-in-lieu for working overtime or flexi-time e.g. working slightly longer hours daily across a nine day fortnight.

High profile women working in the public sphere are often asked how they manage to “have it all” and juggle a career with raising a family. I recall one popular television presenter’s response to this question as it struck a chord with me; she did not consider juggling a job and family as “having it all” with the selfish connotations that go along with that, she preferred to focus on how she could use her skills and experience to contribute to the workforce as well as caring for her family.

Many working mothers would strongly identify with this sentiment. Mothers and carers have a lot to contribute to their families as well as their workplaces. Organisations benefit from retaining skilled and experienced workers, and there are direct benefits to the economy through increased labour market participation and disposable household income.

It is not selfish for women to want/need to take care of their young children and work, or for carers of an elderly person or someone with a disability to also want/need to participate in paid work, or indeed for employees without regular caring responsibilities to enjoy a decent work-life balance.

But quite simply, research shows that without access to flexible work arrangements and benefits such as carer’s leave, many women with young children and other types of carers would withdraw from paid work, either by choice or necessity.

Flexibility needs to be protected in legislation and organisational policies, and there have been some positive steps in this direction, but it also needs to be embraced in workplace culture so people can feel confident asking for a flexible work arrangement knowing it will be given every reasonable consideration and not be seen as unusual or too difficult to accommodate.

If we want more women and carers to participate in the paid workforce we need to make flexibility available to all workers as standard practice rather than being an exception to the rule for some. When flexibility is truly embraced in workplace culture as the norm it will improve wellbeing for all.

By: Zoe Gray

Source: Business Day, Sydney Morning Herald 

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5 tips to encourage flexible working

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One of the biggest obstacles to women reaching senior management and executive positions is the lack of an easy “on-ramp”: a clear path for returning to work after they’ve taken time off to care for children. Equally challenging is encouraging fathers to take up more flexible schedules without stigma.

Employers are increasingly touting their family-friendly policies for both mothers and fathers, but company policies alone provide no guarantee that parents will be lured back from parental leave, experts say.

New research by the University of Sydney Business School and Boss of 70 companies in the S&P/ASX 100 found 80 per cent have policies on workplace flexibility. However, University of Sydney associate professor Rae Cooper says “the policy is an enabler, but it’s not a guarantee of an outcome”.

Cooper’s own research into flexible workplaces includes interviews with 100 managers and employees who had negotiated flexible work across three large organisations. It found managers, not policies, were the key to ensuring people gained work flexibility.

“The crucial thing is the relationship between the line manager and the employee and the approach of that line manager to flexible work,” Cooper says.

Flexible Careers a Key 

Sally Collins, one of the most senior executives at National Australia Bank, agrees supportive managers are critical when it comes to attracting parents back to work. She has taken two stints of maternity leave: for the births of her daughter, Georgia, nine and son, Rory, six.

She says NAB was very supportive of her working part-time when she returned to work. “It meant the difference between working and not working. I wouldn’t have been able to work full time,” says Collins, who is also a step-mother to two young adults.

Now in her ninth year of working flexibly, she has moved up to four days from three a week. She uses her time away from the bank to look after her family and blog, and she recently wrote a book called Stepmother Love.

Part-time work is often considered a career killer, but Collins, 44, has been promoted twice in the past two years and is now just two levels below chief executive in her role of general manager, business management.

Nearly 75 per cent of mothers return to work after having a child, but not everyone has such a positive experience as Collins.

Cooper points out, “Organisations don’t make it easy to return to work. Often managers will assume that flexible work won’t work; that it will be too hard for the individual, the team and the manger.”

An Australian Human Rights Commission study released in July found 49 per cent of pregnant women and working mothers experienced discrimination in the corporate world and the public service. More than a third reported experiencing discrimination when returning to work after parental leave (whether that was negative comments, discrimination when they requested flexible work arrangements, or discrimination on pay, conditions and duties).

The same report also found that 27 per cent of the men who took up their rights to paternity leave believed they were discriminated against upon their return to work, even though the vast majority of fathers and partners interviewed took periods of leave of less than four weeks.

But encouraging parents back to work rather than actively discouraging them would provide a massive boost to the Australian economy. The Grattan Institute argues getting more women back to paid work after having children is crucial if Australia is to lift its relatively low female work participation rates. The institute concluded in its 2012 report on Australia’s economic reform priorities that “if Australian women did as much paid work as women in Canada – implying an extra 6 per cent of women in the workforce – Australia’s GDP would be about $25 billion higher”.

Some employers and managers are already putting in considerable effort to make it easier and more rewarding for parents to return to work after they have children, because they see it as good for their own business.

Amanda Mostyn, ASX group executive, human resources, says ASX has introduced parent-friendly initiatives “to stimulate a more productive work environment, reduce absenteeism, improve job satisfaction, lift staff engagement and lower staff turnover”.

The ASX, a public company that operates the Australian Securities Exchange, introduced what Mostyn calls a “disruptive” initiative in August called “All Roles Flex”. Telstra has had a similar initiative for 18 months. And Westpac Bank aims to have 85 per cent of staff able to work flexibly by 2017.

Mostyn says ASX instituted the change, and educated managers about flexible work, because despite having the policies in place, flexibility was not being widely accessed by staff. She aims to ensure everyone can work flexibly and that can include part-time work, working different hours, or working from different locations. The ASX’s return to work rate currently sits at 88 per cent.

National Australia Bank also gets a big tick from workplace experts for its work in on-ramping staff after parental leave. The bank has a slightly lower return to work rate – 80 per cent – but that’s a big step up from eight years ago when it was just 65 per cent. Like the ASX, NAB sees “normalising” flexibility and reducing stigma about working part time, as a crucial part of attracting and retaining parents.

Michaela Healey, the bank’s group executive for people, communications and governance, says NAB has a rule that all roles advertised must be flexible and open to part-time and full-time applicants.

Parental Leave Penalty

Progressive employers in the on-ramping space also have initiatives aimed at ensuring staff do not slip through the cracks when on parental leave. “Coming back to work from extended leave can be really challenging – and no-one wants to feel like they’ve been living on another planet,” says Healey.

She says return-to-work conversations should start before parental leave starts and continue during and after it ends. NAB’s latest enterprise agreement requires all staff returning to work to receive a pay review and a formal career development discussion.

Parents on parental leave at the ASX are included in performance and remuneration reviews, receive all internal job ads and are encouraged to apply. They can access training, company updates and invitations to business and social events.

Cold Hard Cash

Among the large companies examined by the University of Sydney Business School, 20 per cent had return-to-work bonuses. Two years ago IAG introduced its “Welcome Back Bonus”, equivalent to six weeks’ pay. Donna Walker, the chair of IAG’s diversity and inclusion action group, says it has helped encourage women to return to work. IAG’s return-to-work rates after maternity leave rose to 86 per cent in 2014 from 75 per cent in 2012.

“It’s not just about the financials; we recognise that access to flexibility such as compressed working weeks and working from home is just as important,” Walker says.

The University of Sydney Business School-Boss study found that Leighton Holdings, Rio Tinto and Toll Holdings had the most generous paid parental leave at 18 weeks.

By contrast, Crown Melbourne, Crown Perth, Mineral Resources and JB Hi-Fi Group offer none. The average amount of paid maternity leave offered by large employers in the research was 12 weeks.

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Top Tips for Keeping Your Staff 

Employers should do five key things if they want to make the transition from parental leave manageable and rewarding, says University of Sydney Business School associate professor Rae Cooper.

1. Make it easy: Have a serious look at your return-to-work policies. Is there a clear and simple process for mothers to follow when returning after leave to request flexibility if they want it? Do you say “yes’”enough?

2. Quality part-time jobs: Most mothers return to work part-time, at least in the first two years. Construct high-quality, career-track, flexible jobs.

3. Work design and workload: Negotiate workload and job design changes to accommodate reduced-hours working, or you are setting up the parent in this role to fail.

4. Make it easy for people leaders: Your line and mid-managers are critical. They need to be educated, resourced and supported through the process of making flexible work accessible and workable in their teams. Incentivise them.

5. Walk the walk: Sponsor and “tap the shoulder” of women returning from maternity leave, or who have young children, to undertake challenging roles. Showcase their work and promote them. Engage in flexible work yourself; be a role model.

By: Rachel Nickless

Source: Financial Review 

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