Legal Update

Legal Update


Authors: Madeleine Boyd & Sabine Ford-Arthur

With many Australian businesses responding to shifting trends in parenting dynamics, it is now more crucial than ever to re-assess your own strategies when it comes to tackling this area of employment. Specifically, you may need to consider whether your policies reflect the 21st-century gender-neutral approach to parenting. It is clear Australians are increasingly moving away from stereotypical gender roles, where the primary caregiver has traditionally been limited to the mother of the child.

2019 saw many large multinational companies introduce innovative, progressive, and gender-neutral parental leave policies across their workplaces as a way of attracting world-class talent and retaining key performers.

For example, the multi-national alcohol beverage company, Diageo, introduced 26 weeks of paid parental leave to both male and female employees in Australia regardless of their caring title and whether they had become parents biologically, via surrogacy or through adoption. The parental leave policy allows all eligible employees to receive 26 weeks salary at full pay, including superannuation, and bonuses.

This practice of removing the titles of primary and secondary caregiver for parental leave policies was also introduced in Australia by Medibank Private, who provide 14 weeks of paid parental leave within two years of a child’s birth to any employee who is a parent.

Other organisations are looking to support working families beyond generous parental leave policies by introducing other creative initiatives such as childcare rebates and additional annual leave days for wellness and mental health.

These organisations, which are forging a path to more flexible workplaces, reflect many of the changes highlighted in the National Working Families Report, which was released in November 2019 by Parents at Work (“The Report“).

Parents at Work is a membership-based organisation providing work and family education and policy advisory services to workplaces and individuals. After surveying more than 6,000 parents and carers from around Australia, Parents at Work released their findings which revealed the integral impact that parental leave policies and organisational culture have on an employee’s level of job satisfaction and retention. For example, the Report showed that difficulties with balancing work and family roles, gender imbalances in accessing paid parental leave, and lack of access to flexibility, are primary motivators for parents and carers to leave their employer. While on the other hand, the report indicated that when employees are adequately supported to meet their work and family commitments, their ability to thrive increases, which is beneficial for businesses, as well as families and societies.

The Report made it clear that not only does there need to be a clear shift in the policies and operations of business to ensure that flexible working arrangements are offered equally for men and women, but a cultural shift is also necessary to ensure that there is less stigma associated with the use of flexible arrangements.

With 2020 well and truly upon us, it is a perfect opportunity to reflect on your current policies and procedures, and how your workplace culture can be shaped to encourage retention of high caliber staff and ensure job satisfaction is maintained.

Changing family dynamics are having a significant impact on the workplace as we know it. It is essential to both employee wellbeing and performance that your business examines its current culture in relation to parental leave and workplace flexibility to ensure that it maintains its competitive position.

Harmers is here to assist you in developing innovative policies, and to work with you to ensure that flexibility is achieved without reducing productivity. Our team of experienced lawyers looks forward to talking with you about how you can meet the demands of your business and become a leader in the marketplace.

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