Super during parental leave the new 'benchmark' for family friendly

More employers are stepping up their game to make their workplace more family friendly, by paying employees super while they are on parental leave and actively supporting flexible work options.

When Megan Cross, a senior regulatory compliance manager for HSBC Australia, had her first child in 2016, she missed out on superannuation payments while she was on nine months' leave.

This April she will be going on another maternity leave for about nine months, but this time HSBC will continue to contribute to her super, under a policy introduced last year in an effort to reduce the gender pay gap.

At HSBC, employees get paid superannuation on unpaid parental leave for up to 24 months.

Ms Cross said the contribution made no difference to her decision to take time off for her second child, but it will give her comfort in knowing she will not fall behind financially while she is on maternity leave.

"It gives me peace of mind to know I don't have that gap. It also means should other circumstances arise, I can go on a longer maternity leave," she said.

In addition to the extra super contribution, Ms Cross will receive 15 weeks' paid parental leave, and will have the option to take up to 24 months' unpaid leave.

Ms Cross and her husband both work four days a week, which means they can share childcare duties on their combined two days off.

New benchmark

HSBC, which introduced the super initiative last year, is one of 120 organisations that received the Workplace Gender Equality Agency's "employer of choice for gender equality" in 2017.

The list, to be published on Wednesday, includes the big four banks, the big four accounting and consulting firms, universities, top tier law firms, big super funds and most major real estate firms.

Conspicuously missing from the list, however, are major retailers and miners, who are some of Australia's biggest employers.

WGEA director Libby Lyons said the key trends among this year's citation holders included entrenching organisation-wide flexible work, supporting men's caring responsibilities, and initiatives to attract women into male-dominated roles.

"These employers are setting the benchmark and the pace for other Australian workplaces to follow."

HSBC is the latest bank to offer employees super contributions while they are on parental leave. The big four banks have been paying super for all employees on parental leave for at least several years, and ANZ also gives permanent and fixed-term female employees an extra $500 a year to top up their super.

Legitimising flexible work

Other ways employers try to create a family friendly workplace is by allowing flexible work.

At commercial property firm Dexus, 80 per cent of employees have signed up to the company's "My KPIs Personal Flexibility Plan", which allows employees to build flexibility as part of their performance targets.

One of the people who has signed up is the company's head of group sustainability and energy, Paul Wall, who works three days remotely from his farm in Shoalhaven on the NSW South Coast and two days at Dexus' Sydney head office, which has allowed him to see his children and wife more.

Dexus' head of people and communities, Dan Cook, said the plan helped to "put some teeth" into flexibility by legitimising different arrangements, in an industry where traditionally there has been a focus on being close to the formal office.

"A lot of staff were looking for different flexibility plans. For some people flexibility meant going home at 4pm to coach soccer; for others it meant training for a triathlon, studying, visiting parents or picking up kids from school," Mr Cook said.

"We didn't want to tie people to sitting in an office and wanted people to work where they were much more productive – whether it meant working from home, working from a coffee shop or even working from a different city," he said.

To learn more about financial advice for families, please visit our Whole Wealth Family Home Page.

This article was published and provided by the Australian Financial Review.

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