Pressure for workplaces to step up now that Australia has a work and family policy blueprint

Pressure for workplaces to step up now that Australia has a work and family policy blueprint

by Freya Lucas

May 21, 2021

An Australian-first initiative designed to create family friendly workplaces launched earlier this week, with over 20 large Australian employers, including the Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte, QBE, Novartis and Randstad RiseSmart coming on board as early adopters. 

 

Established by UNICEF Australia and Parents At Work, the initiative delivers standards and a certification framework, developed in consultation with business leaders and community experts, to provide employers minimum and best practice ways to build a more inclusive, family friendly, workplace culture.

 

Once certified as a Family Friendly Workplace, an employer is accredited as having a culture where working families and carers are supported to combine their work and family life commitments, something UNICEF Australia Chair Ann Sherry AO encouraged all Australian businesses to get behind.

 

“The flow on effects of this initiative are significant – we know that family friendly workplace practices can really help to boost the wellbeing of children and carers in working families,” she explained.

 

“They also promote inclusion and gender equity, increased workforce participation for women and caring opportunities for men. The productivity gains are not just for individual businesses, but for the wider economy.” 

 

The initiative is underpinned by new research, commissioned by Parents At Work, which highlights how critical this change is.

 

“Due to COVID-19 the chasm between employees’ work and home life is no longer invisible, creating expectation and urgency for a transformative change in Australian workplace culture,” Parents At Work CEO Emma Walsh explained.

 

The research surveyed Australian employees who experienced working from home since COVID-19. 65 per cent of respondents reported their workplace is now more understanding of the work/life juggle, while three in four (74 per cent) reported improved flexible work arrangements compared to pre-pandemic. 

 

Despite this, Ms Walsh continued, the research indicated a need for employers to do more to embed flexibility gains and reduce work life tension in workplaces and in the home. 

 

“Over half of employees said work and family demands contribute to stress or tension with partners, colleagues, and managers, while 42 per cent reported it affecting their relationships with children.” 

 

Concerningly, she added, 41 per cent of employees think their commitment to the job will be questioned if they make use of these flexible arrangements.

 

How does Family Friendly Workplaces support businesses? 

 

Family Friendly Workplaces provides leadership on policy and practices employers can adopt to be more inclusive and supportive of employees’ competing work and family needs.

 

Commonwealth Bank CFO, Alan Docherty said the bank came on board with the initiative “because of the importance of giving people with a diversity of caring responsibilities and family needs an equal opportunity to succeed in their careers.” 

 

“When people with diverse family needs feel supported in their workplace, not only do they benefit but their families and the broader community benefits too,” he outlined. 

 

Alison Hernandez, Randstad RiseSmart managing director Asia Pacific, said those organisations who are well positioned to support work and family life can enhance competitiveness to attract labour and talent, something especially pertinent to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector as it struggles with ongoing attraction and retention issues. 

 

“It also helps to build trust, a cornerstone of the new employee relationship economy,” Ms Hernandez said. 

 

Businesses of all kinds are being urged to take the first step on a journey towards creating a more family inclusive workplace by expressing interest in the initiative at www.familyfriendlyworkplaces.com 

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