Monday, April 16, 2012

Insurer to pay double wages in parental leave breakthrough

Insurance Australia Group (IAG) has announced it will pay all new mums double wages for their first six weeks back at work as part of a 20-week paid maternity leave package that sets the pace in the race for providing best parental leave benefits.

The company, which owns CGU and NRMA Insurance, will offer the generous bonus package to all eligible employees of its 10,000-strong workforce from today. Women applying for maternity leave at IAG will receive 14 weeks’ paid leave, which was formerly the standard offering, and now an additional six weeks’ worth of double pay upon their return to work.

Notably, when combined with the federal government's 18 weeks' paid parental leave, women working at the insurer will effectively get almost a year's wages while off work caring for children. IAG relationships manager Rebecca Isaachsen said the financial stress of having children was significantly eased by the bonus salary and would be a valuable incentive to returning mums.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions hailed the move as significant advance for women, and urged other companies to follow IAG's lead. However, organisations without the means to offer such packages may be left scratching their head on how to stay competitive.

Harnessing the potential of women returning to work after maternity or extended leave is a shared responsibility, according to Shayne Nealon from Peter Berry Consultancy, and is only possible by having the right kinds of conversations and providing tailored support.

Mercy Health, a recognised employer of choice for women for a fifth consecutive year, has been a leader in support initiatives for mothers returning to work, all of which have delivered improved business outcomes, including decreased employee turnover, an impressive retention rate of 98% and a reduction in sick leave during school holiday periods.

Mercy Health’s flexible work practices for mothers include: 
  • Parent’s network provides people on parental leave with access to an employee group who like themselves are absent from the workplace caring for children. The Parent’s Network gives parents the opportunity to share their experiences, socialise and stay connected with each other and the workplace.
  • Childcare referral service provides employees with access to consultants who can research the availability of child care to suit individual needs.
  • School holiday program assists staff and other parents in the local community to balance work and parenting responsibilities through tailored activities (it followed an analysis of sick leave data which showed parents were taking more sick leave during school holidays than at other times of the year).
  • Mercy Bank program is an internally managed pool of employees on parental leave and other casual employees, established to fill ad hoc shifts without affecting leave entitlements or continuity of service.
  • Breastfeeding facilities accredited by the Australian Breastfeeding Association are available for employees and volunteers across all sites.

Source: hc mag

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