Parental perks

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

whom about 240 take paid parental leave each year.

‘‘We want women to come back after they have a child, and we are get­ting more and more fa­thers tak­ing more time off work to be with their chil­dren,’’ Evans says.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Jane Grace has been on parental leave since her sec­ond child, Joe, was born in De­cem­ber. She says get­ting her full salary paid for 20 weeks dur­ing that time, and for 16 weeks after hav­ing daugh­ter Hazel a cou­ple of years be­fore has made a huge dif­fer­ence.

‘‘It just takes money out of the equa­tion and lets you con­cen­trate on try­ing to get a han­dle on quite a crazy time.’’

The parental leave pol­icy was not a fac­tor in Grace’s de­ci­sion to join ANZ seven years ago, but it is mak­ing her feel loyal to the com­pany and ‘‘quite proud of them’’.

‘‘I’m re­ally grate­ful. It’s taken the pres­sure off get­ting the fi­nan­cial sup­port at the time you need it.’’

Evans says hav­ing more women ac­cess­ing se­nior po­si­tions in New Zealand busi­nesses has helped pro­mote flex­i­ble work and more in­clu­sive poli­cies but the changes are also part of a ‘‘so­cial move­ment’’.

Parental leave perks are costly but are not an is­sue for a large com­pany such as ANZ, she says. The move has helped the ANZ brand as a bank and as an em­ployer, and makes sense fi­nan­cially, with staff sur­veys show­ing very high en­gage­ment.

Smaller busi­nesses might not be able to of­fer perks to the same level but they can be cre­ative in pro­vid­ing more flex­i­bil­ity to em­ploy­ees and sup­port­ing them when they be­come par­ents, Evans says. Vic­to­ria Univer­sity’s Cen­tre for Labour, Em­ploy­ment and Work has an­a­lysed al­most ev­ery col­lec­tive agree­ment signed in New Zealand since 2000.

Its di­rec­tor, Stephen Blu­men­feld, found that staff work­ing in fe­male-dom­i­nated public ser­vices such as health, ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial as­sis­tance were more likely to get top-up pay­ments to their parental leave and other perks.

The re­search looked only at ben­e­fits ob­tained through col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing and did not in­clude perks com­ing from com­pa­nies’ poli­cies.

Blu­men­feld says work­places pro­vid­ing ben­e­fits to new par­ents ‘‘clearly value fe­male staff of child-bear­ing age’’.

‘‘Granted, men can take leave too but in­ter­na­tional re­search shows they don’t of­ten take it even if it is avail­able, es­pe­cially if they have to split the time with the mother.

‘‘In in­dus­tries like min­ing or pe­tro­leum, you’re not likely to find peo­ple push­ing for ex­tended parental leave.’’

Some in­dus­tries, such as en­gi­neer­ing, were work­ing hard to have more women on the pay­roll. ‘‘Most or­gan­i­sa­tions value di­ver­sity and there is re­search to back that up. If they don’t make an ef­fort to hire women, they could be ac­cused of dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices, es­pe­cially as more women grad­u­ate in the field.’’ En­gi­neers and ar­chi­tects through­out New Zealand have joined forces to con­front the in­dus­try’s gen­der prob­lem through the Di­ver­sity Agenda ini­tia­tive – a com­mit­ment to

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