Category Archives: Policy and Procedure

Flexible working – what it takes to be successful (A case study)

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Productivity in the UK has come under the spotlight following news that the nation’s GDP per hour worked is lower now than it was pre-recession. In fact, the UK’s productivity is falling further behind that of its European neighbours.

To help tackle this trend, chancellor George Osborne published the report Fixing the Foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation, which sets the agenda for a national productivity drive.

Despite this, the real ‘game changer’ in the fight to recover the British economy will be the measures businesses themselves can take to enable their employees to be more productive.

Enabling employees to be more effective when they’re in and out of the office and offering them flexible working options are just some of steps that businesses have taken to help to increase productivity and growth over the last five to ten years. In addition, last year the government gave every employee the right to request flexible working from their employer. However, an overall uplift in UK productivity is yet to be realised and the adoption of flexible working is not widespread.

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Reducing re-entry anxiety: how employers can help new parents

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As a business owner, I understand the challenges that come along with keeping employees motivated and engaged at work. Here at Kids & Company we put a lot of effort into making our employees feel supported, appreciated and secure. This becomes especially important when employees go on maternity leave and are away for extended periods of time.
When the Canadian Government increased parental leave to 35 weeks a decade ago, it seemed great; but the reality is, 35 weeks away is a very long time – long enough to lose touch with colleagues and friends, to feel alienated and awkward when faced with changes like employee turnover.  According to Statistics Canada (2014), only 29 per cent of parents with children under 18 are currently employed, proving that returning to work isn’t as simple as falling back into routine.

Employee engagement is a daily challenge for those in HR. They understand that most employees want to maintain a connection with their workplace while on maternity leave, and know that they play a key role in keeping this connection alive.

Losing great employees is more than a HR issue. The average cost of replacing employees can be anywhere from 40 to 400 per cent of the annual salary for that position, making turnover a huge expense from a financial perspective, so it’s worthwhile to invest in easing the transition from home back to work, rather than lose resources.

But how do they do it?

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Gender Equality in the Workplace: The Role of Paid Parental Leave

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recent article by senior Sydney Morning Herald writer and new mum, Jessica Irvine, sparked our interest.

In her piece, Jessica proposed that we cannot have true gender equality until we have true shared responsibility for raising children. She challenged the labels of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ carer enshrined in the current Paid Parental Leave (PPL) legislation as one of the roots of the problem.  Perhaps more concerning is, that as a society, we don’t realise the unintended negative consequences to gender equality when we use the terms ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ care giver.

“In fact, our entire paid parental scheme is predicated on the idea that there should exist a ‘primary’ and therefore a ‘secondary’ care giver. Mums and dads are forced to decide in the first few weeks which will be which. The idea that duties should be shared equally from the start doesn’t even compute in the current system.”

Jessica Irvine, SMH

Over the years we’ve seen countless times the effect of being assigned ‘primary’ carer has on women, unfortunately, often to their career peril. Many feel they must accept this assumed ‘lead position’ or ‘centre controller’ because it will ensure their family stays just that – a family.

Granted, some women want to stay at home for as long or longer than their PPL permits but what of the women who want to return to work and really share the caring role with their spouse?  Many feel the pressure to stay at home – pressure that comes, in part, from a system designed to commit them to the role as the ‘primary’ carer – which can be permanently, for those who find breaking back in impossible down the track.

Current legislation allows the ‘primary carer’ to transfer their PPL entitlement to their partner if they meet the eligibility criteria. This still implies either one spouse/partner must be the primary carer. What’s more the ‘Dad and Partner Pay’ of 2 weeks paid leave to care for a child overtly implies that mum will be the ‘primary carer’ to take PPL – Dad, well, he’ll just take a couple of weeks off and be back at work! What stereotypes does this reinforce about men and women’s role raising children and the proportion of time men vs. women ‘should’ have off whilst raising a family. And what if you are in a gay relationship – two fathers or two mothers? It forces the couple to choose – one is more of a ‘real’ parent than the other.

To be eligible for Parental Leave Pay, you need to be the primary carer of a newborn or recently adopted child. The primary carer is the person who most meets the child’s physical needs. This is usually the birth mother of a newborn or the initial primary carer of an adopted child. You are considered to be the primary carer from birth, even if your child is in hospital.

Eligibility for Paid Parental Leave Pay, Centrelink

Ask any parent – raising a child is a blessing and a challenge. But consider that imposing one parent with the weighty label of ‘primary’ carer carries with it an assumed unequalness that can be (and more often than not is) interpreted as one parent having more responsibility (i.e. more tasks, more decision making authority, more sacrifice) and implies that the other ‘secondary’ carer is somehow less important or has a lesser role to play. Every able parent is equally responsible for the upbringing and well being of their child. Period.

What if PPL redefined all parents as ‘carers’ of their child rather than as ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ carer and what if they were equally encouraged to access paid parental leave within the first 12 months? How would that change the state of play in the culture of workplaces? How would it change the minds of men and women in a society that still pays women less for the same work and struggles to find female leaders?

Would parents feel more empowered to step up and be the mum or dad they want to be? Would women feel more empowered to make life and career choices that were important to them instead of feeling forced to make sacrifices (for stopping paid work) or carrying the guilt (for choosing to work)? We know from various studies that gender equality at work leads to a multitude of societal, economic and personal benefits. A report released last month by the McKinsey Global Institute highlights this fact blatantly: “If every country saw women reach parity with men on workforce participation, global GDP would increase $28 trillion”.  And this: “More than half (54%) of the potential increase in GDP can come from increasing women’s workforce participation.”

There is a very plain bias here and one we’d like to see change before the next round of PPL legislation is enacted, for the sake of all Australians – this generation and those to come.  The inequalities at work (we still have a 18% gender pay gap in Australia) and home (women do 2.5 times more unpaid work than men) highlight why we need to address inequality at all levels of society. We need to discourage gender-based assumptions in every nook and cranny we can – from the laws we make to the colour of socks we feel we ‘ought’ to buy our new born. As my 4 year old said this morning: “some kids think blue is for boys and pink is for girls but I like blue and all colours are for everyone”.

In summary, and put simply, we propose the Government remove all gender references from the new Paid Parental Leave legislation. ‘Either parent/carer’ will suffice. Change starts with the individual, but when we have laws that reflect true equality (both parents, without bias, playing an equally active and important role as both carer and worker), we start to inspire and encourage every parent, working or not, to play a role in raising the next generation – equally. After all, it takes village to raise a child doesn’t it?

By: Emma Walsh

First published by Women’s Agenda

 

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Supporting Working Parents – it’s time to act. Australia Human Rights Commission website to help employers and parents

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Spurred by shocking statistics last year that exposed 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men experience discrimination during pregnancy, parental leave and the return to work period [1] the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has responded by launching a website for employers and employees to understand their legal obligations and entitlements better.

The new Government website – Supporting Working Parents – has been developed to help bridge the ‘gap between the law and education, and proper implementation’[2] of policies and practices that support employees with caring responsibilities.

The website includes “a compilation of leading practices and strategies being implemented in workplaces around the country to retain and support talented women and working parents,” said Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

At the launch, employers were commended on their intention to ‘do the right thing’ but it was highlighted that many simply ‘don’t know what to do’ and ‘need guidance’.

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5 things employers can do to help women re-enter the workforce

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The Mother’s Day budget announcement that parents would not be eligible for Paid Parental Leave from both the government and their employer was saddening to say the least. This counter-intuitive policy shows the government is disregarding research around the benefits of quality time in the first year where mothers can bond and establish breastfeeding with their child.

Apart from supporting campaigns to encourage the government to revisit their policy there is wider responsibility the business community should acknowledge. PPL combined with other programs to support and help retain staff, have real impacts on productivity and make employees happier and more engaged. These should be part of the push to address gender equity in the workplace and support working parents, contributing to the economy especially mothers. Here are 5 things businesses can consider:

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What does the new ‘family package’ mean for employers? Importantly, how do working parents feel about it?

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The new childcare and parental leave initiatives have possibly been the most controversial and emotive of Budget 2015.

The Government’s intention is to encourage parents to do more paid work. Sounds good for the economy right? But is it really? And at what expense does it come to our children, working parents and employers?

[Hot news update: 34 leaders and 21 organisations have joined forces to ask government to abandon its proposed changes to PPL. Read more here. Updated: 22.5.2015]

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Strategy key to improving workplace gender equality

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A comprehensive strategy is key to achieving workplace gender equality, but knowing where to get started is a common obstacle to developing one, according to two experts.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has developed a roadmap that tracks organisations’ gender equality progress through six phases, say Dr Heidi Sundin and Emily Cappas, from the Agency’s education and innovation division.

“The first phase is the avoiding phase, and we’ve labelled that ‘zero’ because essentially that means that either gender equality is not on the radar of the organisation or, if it is, the organisation has determined that that’s not something they see as a priority or want to take action on,” they told a recent HR Daily Premium webcast.

The remaining five phases comprise:

    1. Compliant – Organisations report to the WGEA and comply with various pieces of legislation in relate to discrimination, sex-based harassment, etc;
    2. Programmatic – Organisations have lots of programs that drive gender equality, such as return-to-work or flexible work schemes but no overarching strategy;
    3. Strategic – Organisations have a gender equality strategy that is aligned with their business strategy and has specific timeframes and resources allocated to it;
    4. Integrated – Organisations have a strategy and are starting to put the infrastructure, policies, and procedures in place to support it;
    5. Sustainable – Organisations culturally embed gender equality into everyday decisions and activities.

For employers at the beginning of their gender equality journey, Sundin and Cappas recommend starting in either the compliance or strategic phase.

“Many of our organisations… will be reporting to the [WGEA] and that’s a great place to start, because through that process they’ll have a systematic review across six gender equality indicators on a whole range of gender equality reporting matters, so you’d be able to get a really good picture as to where you are and, with the benchmark data, that would also give you a picture of how you’re performing against your industry and against organisations overall,” they say.

“We also know that some organisations do want to move more quickly along the gender equality journey, and so for them we’d recommend starting out with a gender equality strategy and jumping straight into the strategic phase.”

While organisations in the programmatic phase have “done a lot of hard yards”, Sundin and Cappas advise against starting here because these companies still need to consolidate their activities under a strategy.

“Then [they must] undertake an assessment to see whether or not those are the right priorities [and] whether or not they need to be re-focused and investment directed into other areas to achieve gender equality more quickly.”

How to plot your organisation’s progress

Employers should assess their organisation against 12 areas to determine where they sit on the gender equality roadmap, say Sundin and Cappas.

“These are what we see at the [WGEA] as the 12 areas of gender equality that really need to be thought through systematically to again understand where you are and where you want to go. These do relate to reporting matters and also to the Employer of Choice for Gender Equality criteria,” they say.

“These 12 areas are: stakeholder engagement; leadership accountability; strategy and business case; measurement and reporting systems; policies and processes; supply chain; gender composition; gender pay equity; flexibility; talent pipeline; leader and manager capability; and a gender inclusive culture.”

Stakeholder communication and engagement, for example, pertains to any groups of individuals with an interest in or ability to influence gender equality in an organisation.

“The question is here, where is your organisation in terms of engaging all of those different stakeholders? Are you in phase zero, one, two, three, four or five? So, for example, are you in the compliance phase where your organisation sees government or regulators as the key stakeholders because of their role in gender equality?” they say.

“Are you more in the strategic phase where you identify all of the stakeholders who play a role and engage those stakeholders?”

Plotting this out is a subjective process but that in itself makes it a useful conversational device, say Sundin and Cappas.

“Getting people to put down what their views are on this can really help to uncover views that… you may not have been aware of… before and it can really get the conversation starting in areas you might not have realised are important,” they say.

“We would recommend using it as a conversation tool and potentially surveying different stakeholders within the organisation to understand how they see the position of the organisation in each of those 12 areas.

“You may want to also present some sort of summary-of-findings report to the management team to get them on board with where the key areas for development are and what you key strength areas are.”

After the “diagnosis phase” is done, organisations can use the information it reveals about their priorities and strengths to inform their workplace gender equality strategy, say Sundin and Cappas.

Watch the full presentation here for more tips for advancing your organisation’s workplace gender equality efforts. (HR Daily Premium content – upgrade here for access).

Source: HR Daily

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Women in Leadership

Why the gap between policy & practice in flexible work is costing women their careers

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The last five years have seen an increase in comprehensive policiesproviding access to flexible work, but these policies are not being effectively employed in practice, according to new research. 

The University of Sydney Business School’s Women and Work Research Group has conducted a study involving in-depth interviews with employees and line managers about the implementation of the company’s flexible work policies – and the results were disappointing.

The study’s co-author Dr Rae Cooper told Women’s Agenda that the growth in strong flexible work policies, both at a company and a national level, in recent years is encouraging, but that it appears there is a disconnect between the way the policies are written and the way they are implemented

“We’ve seen more significant developments in policies surrounding access to flexible work in the last five years than we’ve ever seen before in Australia’s history. Governments and organisations have put a lot of effort into designing good policies for keeping women attached to the labour force after having children,” Dr Cooper said.

“But our study shows a dissonance between the policies’ intentions and their outcomes. We found that these policies are not being effectively borne out in practice and employees are not receiving the benefits they are entitled to.”

So if the policy framework has been developed and is theoretically effective, what is going wrong?

Dr Cooper says the disconnect between the policy and the practice is a result of a lack of awareness among both employees and managers about the how the policy it meant to operate.

“This means that managers are not offering employees the full benefits they are entitled to by the policy because the managers themselves do not have adequate information and training.”

“We spoke to employees in organisations with very strong flexible work policies who approached managers and were told, ‘we don’t do flexible work here’, when of course this was not the case.”

Dr Cooper said the effort put into developing sound policies is wasted if they are not properly understood by those operationalising them. This lack of understanding at manager level means that employees are missing out on flexible working arrangements that both national and organisational policies entitle them to.

“It is so important that companies have strong policies on flexible work, but they will not reap the benefits they are intended to if line managers are acting as gate keepers to those policies.”

Dr Cooper said employees’ lack of awareness of their own entitlements is also creating a barrier to access.

“We were very surprised at how low the levels of understanding of flexibility policies was among employees. We found that employees had a general understanding that they were entitled to ask for part time work, but they did not have an understanding of how these arrangements actually work in terms of things like pay, bonuses, workload and job design,” she said.

Dr Cooper said this has lead to employees asking for reduced hours, but failing to negotiate the broader implications of the change. She said employees need to be asking questions about what their new expected productivity and output would be, who would complete the extra work and how their new role would be designed.

“Failing to negotiate these implications often means that women ask for reduced hours, but feel under pressure to produce the same amount of work, so they just end up doing full time work and only receiving part time pay.”

This dissonance between policy and practice means women are often still sacrificing career progression for flexibility and according to Dr Cooper, this needs to change.

“We need to get rid of the idea that in order to work flexibly you have to sacrifice career success,” she said.

“Today in Australia we have the most highly educated female labour force in the world, and we owe it to those women, our society and our economy to not waste that talent.”

By: Lucia Osborne-Crowley

Source: Women’s Agenda

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