Australian companies that employ at least 100 people will this year be required to provide data to the government on how new parents are treated in their workplace.
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) says the move is designed to give employers insight into how best to manage their staff.
The change is one of a number of updates to reporting requirements for businesses covered by the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. The businesses affected are non-public sector organisations that employ more than 100 people.
These organisations already provide online reports to the WGEA based on a set of six gender equality indicators, which relate to areas of gender equality such as the gender composition of the workforce, remuneration and the availability of flexible working arrangements.
Employers in this group will now be required to provide information about the number of appointments, promotions and resignations by gender for the 2015-16 reporting period between April 1, 2015, and March 31 this year.
The information will also need to include whether the position is a management or non-management role.
Companies will also have to inform the WGEA of how many employees ceased employment either during or after taking paid parental leave. This information will also need to indicate the gender of the employees and if they worked in a management or non-management role.
Reports for this period are due between April 1 and May 31.
WGEA director Libby Lyons told SmartCompany the metrics will give employers more information about how their workplace is operating.
“This year employers will gain a clearer picture of the rate at which they are attracting and promoting women and men, the rate at which both genders are leaving, and the proportion of parents who return to work following parental leave,” Lyons says.
“When compared to industry benchmarks, these metrics provide an unprecedented understanding of how effectively employers are using their most important asset – their people.”
Lyons says the information will give employers an insight into their corporate culture.
“Above industry turnover rates can spell trouble for companies,” Lyons says.
“Now employers will receive valuable insights about where they can act to create more productive and equitable workplaces.”
An opportunity for businesses
Prue Gilbert, founder and chief executive of Grace Papers, told SmartCompany this morning the data companies will have from these new reporting requirements “is actually an opportunity for them to really start to understand and unlock people’s biases, particularly around parental leave”.
Grace Papers provides career coaching and support programs for women throughout their pregnancies and upon returning to work.
Gilbert says every woman she has coached during the past 12 months has been promoted while on leave or when they returned to work.
“It’s certainly recognition that their skill set has expanded,” she says.
“Maternity leave is an opportunity for women to be promoted as the accumulation of skills and competencies when a woman becomes a mother is exponential.”
Gilbert says unlocking biases around parental leave in workplaces doesn’t just help new mothers, it helps men who are interested in taking parental leave too.
“The reality is the same for men. If they are given the opportunity to spend time with a newborn or a baby, their skill sets also increase, their emotional intelligence increases,” she says.
While Gilbert says it is often harder for smaller businesses to manage these issues, she says it is important to have a discussion around the return on investment for businesses that offer parental leave to employees.
Gilbert says the organisations she has worked with have generally had a return to work rate of between 80-90% among new parents, but she says this retention rate can drop off in the 12 months after someone initially returns to work.
This is due to a number of factors, with Gilbert saying the most common factors are inadequate job design or a lack of on-boarding support for both employees and employers.
“There’s very little support for businesses and for individuals to navigate that space to support men and women who are taking leave,” she says.