Flexible work and more paid leave: How employers are earning a ‘family inclusive’ certification

Family Friendly Workplaces

Source: Women's Agenda.

Improved flexible work practices and progressive paid family leave policies are key drivers behind employers becoming ‘family inclusive’.

Of the 70 employers that have so far achieved the Family Friendly Workplaces (FFW) certification, the vast majority (70%) are providing gender equal access to paid parental leave, while almost half (47%) are now paying superannuation during unpaid periods of parental leave.

One year since the launch of the initiative, the list of those now certified spans 17 different industry sectors and includes ASX companies, household brands, government agencies and not-for-profits.

In proving how fast change can happen, eight in 10 of those now certified did not previously have a committed action plan in place for addressing the needs of employees with caring responsibilities.

All 70 now do.

Marking the anniversary at a breakfast event in Sydney last week, the two organisations behind the initiative — Parents At Work and UNICEF Australia — launched a new report sharing data on the benefits of family-friendly workplaces and some of the key lessons from the certified employers.

“The future of work is family-friendly and employers who are not taking these issues seriously will be left behind,” Parents At Work CEO Emma Walsh said on the release of the report.

Initiatives like FFW enable organisations to meet key standards and access tools and ideas that other employers are doing.

One of the first steps any employer can take towards becoming more family-inclusive is determining how many of their employees are parents or carers, or have some kind of caring responsibilities. As this report found, 67% of those organisation that were eventually certified did not previously record or measure these stats.

On flexibility — what is seen as a key enabler to being family-friendly — employers need to go beyond simply presenting flexible work as an option. 88% of these certified employers are addressing the cultural shift required, and now provide employees with guides and training to embed flexible work practices.

Ann Sherry AO, who was the first to introduce maternity leave into the corporate sector during her time at Westpac during the 1990s, says that many years on from that milestone, there’s still more work to do to push family-friendly policies into workplaces.

“We need to keep pushing into this space to make our workplaces places where people bring their best selves to work, and take their best selves home again,” she said.

With more than 300,000 employees already covered by those organisations that are now certified, Sherry said there is more work to do to push into other organisations, including state and federal government departments.

Employers must also consider the benefits of a family-friendly culture for attaining and retaining staff, especially given the talent squeeze occurring across many industries right now.

“All employers are now facing the challenge of earning the right to get people back to work. People are making choices about where and how they will work. This is a timely piece of work. A timely intervention to hear and learn about what others can do,” Sherry said.

ING CEO Melanie Evans, who was instrumental in seeing her organisation becoming the first bank to offer gender-equal paid parental leave, says the family-friendly policies it has in place not only support the wellbeing of staff, but contribute to creating an attractive workplace.

“There is a huge untapped opportunity to get people with caring responsibilities either back into the workforce, or give to give them more working hours,” she said.

UNICEF Australia’s chief advocate for children Nicole Breeze said the benefits that flow on to families and children from workplaces that address their family-friendly status. “When family wellbeing is under strain, children’s health and development can suffer.”

There are nine ASX 200 entities among the first group of certified Family Inclusive Workplaces, as well as government agencies, multinationals and household brands. The list includes Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte, QBE Insurance, Novartis, Randstad RiseSmart, ING, Microsoft, Medibank, APRA, HESTA, KPMG, Norton Rose Fulbright, oOh!media, PEXA, Volvo and Genea.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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