Parental leave policies can help employers win the war for talent

While we hope that the worst of COVID-19 is behind us, the pandemic’s lasting social and economic impacts remain felt. Take for example the ‘great resignation’ phenomenon.

While it was slower to hit Australia than other markets, it has certainly made up for lost time locally. Research from NAB surveyed 2,000 Australians this year and found that 1 in 5 workers surveyed had resigned in the 12 months prior. As employers and HR leaders, we are facing an uphill battle to attract and retain top talent. The pandemic saw people re-evaluating their life priorities and what deriving value and purpose from work means to them.

Why parental support policies could change the tide?

A recent report from PWC found 1 in 4 Australians consider support for their wellbeing as the most important factor in their happiness at work. One of the few positives to come out of the pandemic was the spotlight it shone on the need for greater workplace flexibility.

This was felt more by working parents, who during the pandemic juggled their work while homeschooling and caring for their children. This challenge for working parents drove us to further enhance a number of programs to include more initiatives targeted at providing support and connectedness. Our goal was to give employees who are parents the tools and support to help balance work and parenting children at home, and this continues now.

One example is our Parents at Work membership for all of our Australia and New Zealand employees, providing support for working families, through webinars, coaching, workshops and resources. But the changes made were just the initial spark to what’s become a driving movement to create market-leading parental support policies across the HR industry.

What changes did we make to our parental leave policy?

The changes we’ve made at Experian are essential in today’s competitive talent environment and have helped keep our high performer resignation rate to 6.5%, exceeding our 8% target. This number is also down from the previous year, which we’re proud of given the current competitive talent market. We overhauled our parental leave offering in October to ensure it was setting the bar for the tech industry which we operate within, changes included:  

  • Reducing the qualifying period for Parental Leave (primary and secondary carers) to six months / upon successful completion of probation, hoping that choosing between growing a family and joining our business is not a concern.
  • Removing the 12-month qualifying period between periods of Primary Carer’s Leave allowing our people even more flexibility in family planning.
  • Extending Parental Leave (primary and secondary carers) entitlement to cover Stillbirth / Infant Death, and while hoping that no family ever encounters such loss, our policy has been broadened to support those during these tragic circumstances. 
  • Paying Superannuation on Unpaid Primary Carer’s Parental Leave for employees below government threshold (currently $162,000), for up to 12 months and helping to contribute to closing the retirement savings gap between men and women. 

These changes build on the flexible and supportive environment our HR and leadership team had been cultivating. For example, a Senior Account Director, Kat Kruger. Kat found out she was pregnant in early 2021 when her hometown Melbourne was in and out of lockdowns. This came as a surprise to Kat and her partner, who were based on the Gold Coast then.

Not only were Kat and her partner contending with the uncertainty of becoming new parents for the first time, but they were also managing a long-distance relationship through unpredictable border closures. After travelling between the Gold Coast and Melbourne for the first three-quarters of her pregnancy, Kat had an important decision to make when the Victorian Government announced an extended lockdown midway through 2021.

With her obstetrician located on the Gold Coast and the birth rapidly approaching, Kat decided to permanently relocate up north. We offered Kat the opportunity to work flexibly for as long as she needed to, despite Experian having no dedicated office on the Gold Coast.

According to ABS Labour Force data, one quarter of couple families with children aged 0-4 years have both parents working full-time. It is imperative that firms implement parental leave policies that allow for flexibility, or risk alienating a significant portion of the talent pool. Experian believes that fostering an inclusive work environment that accommodates diverse employee bases is paramount to building work culture, ultimately helping to retain talent.  

Anmarie Forrester is the Human Resources Director A/NZ at Experian.