The future of work must be family friendly

The future of work must be family friendly

From offering fertility leave to 20 per cent more pay for working flexibly, the Family Friendly Workplaces initiative is encouraging workplaces to meet new standards of being family-inclusive.

The second year after bringing a new child into the world can often be the most challenging to navigate for new parents.

But most workplace policies for families mainly focus on the first 12 months of a child’s life.

Deloitte Australia has moved to change that, kicking off a new suite of policies this week that aim to address the broader and often more complex needs of new parents and those who are trying to start a family.

In the first 12 months after returning from a continuous block of paid parental leave (Deloitte already offers 18 weeks, regardless of gender) new parents at Deloitte can now access additional paid support – including an extra day’s pay for working three or four days, or an extra half day’s pay for working one of two days.

The changes aim to address the financial and physical stress that come with combining work and a dramatic shift in family life. 

“Overall, we’re trying to encourage people to work flexibly – to reduce their hours by 20 per cent without suffering negative consequences on your salary,” Pip Dexter, National Diversity, Equity and Inclusion manager at Deloitte says.  

She adds that the policy reflects the lessons and insights learned from conversations with staff, who noted some of the financial and emotional pressures and stress that come with navigating childcare, kids getting sick more often, and the sheer logistics of pursuing the working/parent life.  

The firm is also now offering five days of paid fertility leave for those undergoing IVF treatment, as well as ten days of leave for those who experience miscarriage. It has also adopted new flexibility around KPI measures, for the 12 months after returning from leave.

Deloitte’s policy changes come one year since it became a founding member of Family Friendly Workplaces, a joint initiative of UNICEF Australia and Parents At Work.

Deloitte was certified as “family inclusive” prior to making these changes – an example of an employer that’s aimed to meet the standards and benchmarks required for certification, and then exceed them.

There are now 70 employers certified as “family inclusive” by Family Friendly Workplaces.

Marking the one year anniversary of the launch of the initiative, Parents At Work CEO Emma Walsh says they are thrilled with the volume of organisations that have come forward for certification.

“They are employers that span multiple industries and organisation sizes, proving that there are huge opportunities for all organisations to improve on family friendly initiatives and policies, regardless of the type of work they do,” she said, 

“It’s encouraging to see how companies like Deloitte are further enhancing their progressive family friendly policies, even after certification. Their focus on supporting parents in the second year of a child’s life through their latest policy announcement highlights the opportunity that comes from speaking directly with employees, determining their needs, and getting creative in the policy response.”

FFW was created in the midst of the pandemic but remains as vital as ever now and into the future as parents not only recover from the stress of the past two years, but also as families take on new caring responsibilities and expect more support from their employers.

Employers must meet key standards on being inclusive for families, including by providing greater access to paid family leave provisions, to achieve the certification.

The initiative recently received Federal Government funding to expand and help support other workplaces in meeting the standards, over the next three years.

With the first year of the initiative now completed, Parents At Work and UNICEF Australia have launched a new report, highlighting key stats on the need for family friendly workplaces and sharing valuable lessons from the 70 employers already certified.

They found that enhanced flexible work practices and progressive paid family leave policies are key to seeing employers reach the standards.

But they also found that eight in ten of those who are now certified were not collecting data on the people with caring responsibilities they now have on staff. Now, all 70 such organisations do.

That includes Deloitte, which found that almost 40 per cent of its workforce had caring responsibilities when it undertook its own audit.

“What I’ve found in my role in diversity and inclusion over the past year, as well as my exposure to the Family Friendly Workplaces initiative, is that it’s really opened our minds to see what organisations are doing. The process has encouraged us to think about the next boundaries we can push.”

Pip says the reaction to this latest round of family friendly policy enhancements at Deloitte was overwhelming when they announced the policy on International Women’s Day this year, to officially start on the 1st June,

“I didn’t realise how personal and emotional some of the reactions would be. For some older men and women with older children, they were overwhelmed by the fact we were doing this for our people. There was also the emotion from those who had experienced miscarriage or gone through IVF treatment in the past.”

While these family-friendly policies help in supporting – and then ultimately retaining – talent. There are other benefits: promoting to the rest of the talent pool what’s on offer, which is especially necessary given the tight employment market.

“Another thing we saw was how our people took to LinkedIn to promote what we were doing. We created our own social media posts, but it was fascinating to see our younger people out there promoting this,” Pip said. 

Finally, Pip notes the need for organisations to go beyond simply introducing policies – to working on the cultural change required to ensure they are used effectively.

“It’s important to equip managers with the skill they need to think about how they lead their teams,” she said.

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