Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Paid Parental Leave: Before & After

You may have already implemented a parental leave policy or working parents toolkit for your workplace and understand the support required surrounding parental leave to successfully retain and transition your working parents.

A new report shows that the Gillard Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme is making a real difference for mothers, particularly those who need financial help the most.

The Baseline Mothers Survey surveyed more than 2,500 mothers across the country to assess their situation before the Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme began.
It found that only about half of working women had access to paid maternity leave before the Government introduced our Paid Parental Leave scheme. Now, 95 per cent of working women have access to paid parental leave – either from the Government or their employer or both.

Almost all (94 per cent) of those women who didn’t have access to paid parental leave before – particularly casual workers, the self-employed and those working in smaller businesses – are now eligible for the Government’s scheme.

Since the Government’s scheme began on 1 January 2011, half of the mothers who have received Paid Parental Leave earned less than $43,700 in the year before their baby was born.

The survey found that concerns over financial pressures in the household were a key factor in women’s return to work, with 59 per cent of mothers saying they returned to work earlier than they would have liked because of financial stresses.

More than 160,000 expectant and new parents have now applied for the Gillard Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme.

Less than a third of fathers had access to paid parental leave, according to mothers surveyed.

The Best Practice Guide released by the fairwork ombudsman states all best practice parental leave policies should include details about keeping in touch when an employee is on leave. Good communication arrangements can help an employee on leave feel attached to the workplace, their career and their colleagues. 

One of the suggested ways to do this is to implement a stay-in-touch program, currently offered by mums@work. This will ensure the communication lines are open at all stages of the pregnancy, planning stages and throughout parental leave.

The Guide also suggests a successful parental leave policy should incorporate innovative and flexible arrangements that assist parents before, during and after a period of parental leave. 
From next year, the Gillard Government is extending Paid Parental Leave to fathers through Dad and Partner Pay, giving fathers and other partners two weeks paid at the rate of the national minimum wage.

This historic reform, delivered by the Australian Government, gives parents more options to balance work and family, helps employers to retain skilled staff, and helps boost workforce participation.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gender Pay Gap still looming

The gender pay gap is still evident and even prominent in Australian workplaces, today, according to latest research from the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA). 

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals that:

* Australian women, on average, earn 17.4% less than men
* WA has the largest gender pay gap at 25.8% while the ACT has the lowest at 12.0%

The gender pay gap has remained almost unchanged - in a staggering - two decades. It was 17.6% in November 2011 and has consistently hovered around 15-18% over the last two decades.  

The average weekly earnings of women working full-time were $1,186.90 per week or $250.50 per week less than men, who earned an average weekly wage of $1,437.40 per week. Over the course of a year, this difference would add up to $13,026.
Helen Conway, Director of the EOWA, said: "The gender pay gap is a disincentive to women's participation in the workforce. In a time of significant skills shortages and with productivity levels in decline, it makes good business sense and is in our national interest to eliminate this disincentive to full workforce participation."

Emma Walsh, Director of mums@work, says one of the areas wage inconsistencies occur is when women return to work from parental leave. "It's easy for them to be 'forgotten' in the pay review cycle because - out of sight, out of mind. Women can find themselves re-entering work based on their old pay scale before leave, often unwittingly realising they have missed out. This can occur due to a downsize of their job or because they've been out of the workforce for a while. A lot of women end up devaluing their skills and settling for less pay than they deserve."

What Can Organisations Do?
EOWA offers a free and online Mind the Gap course designed to explain pay equity concepts, outline Australia's pay equity history and show how to ensure equality across human resources policies, processes and procedures that might unintentionally incorporate gender bias or lead to disparity.

Conway says: "Organisations can start by doing a payroll analysis to determine if they have a gender pay gap. They can ask themselves whether working flexibly in their organisation limits a person's career. They can also examine whether their workplaces contain stereotypes and embedded bias in job design, evaluation and remuneration processes."

Walsh comments that, when it comes to working parents, a support program is a great initiative. "Keeping the lines of communication open and being receptive to alternatives modes of work and flexibility, can actually help achieve a long-lasting successful result for the working relationship with keeping women in the positions and the wages they are best suited."

Impending legislative reforms to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 will strengthen the ability of EOWA to track and provide advice on the gender pay gap for organisations across industry sectors.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Flexibility is Necessity

The word 'flexibility' is often seen in the discussion surrounding accommodating working parents in the workplace. But everyone has a life outside work, and we all need our work to fit in with our lives. An article released by People Management magazine says "the call for flexibility comes from all sectors of the population. It could be for volunteer work, sport and leisure pursuits, education or other aspirations that we want to fit into our lives."

The Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) released a report 'Get Flexible or Get Real' which found that flexibility optimises resources and productivity. The findings from the research showed that while many people have access to ‘basic’ flexible work options, meaningful flexible work and careers are not common practice in Australian workplaces, despite mainstreaming flexible work and careers being a business imperative, capable of:

  • Enabling businesses to be sustainable and adaptable to change;
  • Providing a pathway to gender equality;
  • Assisting with talent attraction and retention; and
  • Improving workplace productivity.

Gail Kelly, CEO of Westpac, mums@work client, told DCA: "By making flexible working arrangements an embedded business practice for all employees, at all levels of management and at different stages of their career, organisations become more sustainable and adaptive to change whilst also creating a competitive advantage in the on-going war for talent."

UK firm CIPD have called on their government to extend flexible working rights to all employees. They agree that flexibility is 'a hugely beneficial source of competitive advantage and will deliver significant returns.'

'Flexible Work' and creating 'work/life balance' are common terms we use, but many organisations are in the dark about how to implement them and create this life-changing culture in their organisation.

Emma Walsh, Director of mums@work says that it's important for managers and leaders in organisations to think past the infamous 'part-time' stigma. "Being creative about flexible work options and not adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, will ensure success in retaining employees," Ms Walsh says.

Author: Elysha Stephens, Marketing & Communications Consultant

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Changes to age of eligibility for Family Tax Benefit Part A

Here is an excerpt from a government media release yesterday:

The Australian Government is making changes to family assistance to ensure that family payments are targeted to when families need it most – while their children are in school.
All Australians deserve the best chance to get a job and that chance often begins with a good education.

That is why, from 1 January 2013, Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A will be focused on supporting families with young children and while at school.

Protecting the living standards of Australian families has been a key priority of the Gillard Government from day one, and this important measure reflects that commitment.
Under this change, young people aged 18 or over will no longer have access to FTB Part A unless they are in full time secondary study. Currently the maximum age of eligibility for FTB Part A is 21 years.

Eligible families will continue to receive FTB Part A for children aged under 18 years if their teenage child is in, or has completed, their secondary education or vocational equivalent.
Special arrangements for 18 and 19 year olds who are completing secondary school will ensure that their families can continue to access FTB Part A until the end of the calendar year.
Youth Allowance will continue to be available for eligible young people who need financial support while they are studying or looking for work.

Youth Allowance ‘learn or earn’ requirements mean that young people need to be actively participating in work, job search, study or training to receive payment.
This helps young people transition from school and puts them on a pathway to work.
The Government has a strong record of achievement to get young Australians either learning or earning.

These changes build on reforms to family assistance for older children as part of our Supporting Families with Teenagers election commitment, which began on 1 January this year, to help families with the cost of raising older teenagers and encourage young people to stay in school.

The maximum rate of FTB Part A was increased by up to $4,200 for families with teenagers aged 16 to 19 years who are in full-time secondary school or equivalent vocational training, so that they get the same assistance as for teenagers aged 13 to 15 years.

Together, these reforms deliver on the recommendations of the Australia’s Future Tax System Review, which proposed that family payments should be the main form of assistance for families for children in secondary school, with Youth Allowance the main form of assistance after young people finish school.

Source: The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to be an expert mum

How to be an expert mum? That caught your attention right?

Is there really a formula we can all adhere to, to achieve that ever-inspiring word near our name: expert? I have always believed the answer to that question lies amid the family relationships between us, as mums and dads, and our children. I think we have an instinct within us that tells us when what we're doing is working and when it's not. Perhaps it's the happy kids doing their homework on the kitchen table while we cook dinner or the excited squeals of delight that resound from the little ones after mastering the art of 'cutting.'

But nonetheless, as Australian Womens' Weekly's article 'What makes a good mum?' points out:  it remains that motherhood is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Being a mother is about teaching our children, coaching them, supporting them and nurturing them. But that's not all is it? Mums these days have a huge balancing act to fullfil. Clinical Psychologist Dr Simon Crisp says, "Mothers have moved beyond simply needing to provide for a family, ensure their children have shelter, food, health and basic nurturing." Mothers nowadays must be able to continue being the nurturer in the family, whilst juggling work life with family life and still running the household.

I'm all about taking these facts and figures and doing something practical. Some of us mums want to be the nurturer as well as work, manage our careers, have time to take our kids to sporting committments and keep the house clean. We certainly know how to challenge ourselves!

Emma Walsh, Director of mums@work says being a mum is both 'rewarding and busy.'
"It's about taking your committments and finding a way to successfully juggle these that works for the working parent and their family. It's not so easy for dads either. There's an increasing number of dads spending time away from work because they want to spend more time with their kids. Australian organisations together with their working parents can make a difference to the Australian lifestyle so we may be better able to manage this work/life balance dilemma."

Sometimes it's just about doing your best and loving your children. Parenting Educator Maggie Dent says, "Busy people do make such an effort to spend lots of quality time with their children, but it's the little windows of connection that happen in everyday life that make their child feel constantly loved. A good mother knows her kids need to feel loved lots of little times."

Even as parents, we all need to make a living and it's important also to have time for our children and support them and teach them. So how do we know if we're an expert at it? Don't fall victim to the fairytale image of the 'supermum' and don't sweat the small stuff. Your kids will be the evidence.

Author: Elysha Stephens, Marketing & Communications Consultant and working mum

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Finding Happiness at Work

by James Brett (Truly Tea)

There’s so much clarity with retrospective awareness and understanding!

I’m an individual who’s, for some reason, lucky enough to be endowed with innate passion, energy, determination & enthusiasm. A real go-getter.

With a super HSC and a finance & econometrics degree under my belt, the world was at my feet. The typical upbringing of “get a good job and work your way up” was a fundamental belief.

And so I sprinted to the corporate ladder like a true champion indeed! Nothing could stop me from achieving the ultimate goal – CEO one day! Joining Citibank (largest bank on the globe at the time), meant the potential for “success” was unlimited – should I want it, crave it, need it badly enough.

I persistently worked and worked – harder, longer, better, faster. That beautiful, sparkling, solid gold carrot was dangling there! How badly I wanted it!

Except... After a few years I wondered: “Do I actually want that carrot”? If so, to the detriment of what? I watched people come & go, inflate & deflate, create & destroy, scrambling over each other for crumbs. The saddest events I saw were the family & marriage break ups – unfortunately, most due to work-related issues. And not just one or two... Was this my destiny, too?

Sure, the pay was fine... Bonuses were sometimes good... I was constantly praised for over-achieving....

How about personal relationships? Marriage? Friends? Physical & mental health? None of these were priorities...

So I exited corporate quick smart and founded a Tea Company – Truly Tea. A curious and risky career change, but incredibly rewarding. Our customers love us & our products, and we strive to enhance their lives. We’ll often encourage them to sit, relax and take a breath – tea is a brilliant vessel for this.

Do I regret it? Not for a millisecond. I’ve learned some exceptionally valuable lessons from that chapter of life; lessons that smacked me down but sprung me back stronger. Now I proudly boast superior knowledge and appreciation for the most valuable things in my life.
In my humble opinion, we all need more self-awareness. Simple start: setting, evaluating and start achieving REAL goals. Not KPIs, sales targets, bank balance goals, or who’s-got-the-biggest-house-and-nicest-car goals. More like Life goals, Family goals and Happiness goals.

What makes me happy now? Knowing I have amazing family and friends surrounding me... a smile, hug, a laugh. So simple, yet so fulfilling!

And I’m CEO – super happy about that, too ?

James Brett
Tea Purveyor (happily ex-corporate)