Companies that offer generous parental leave packages could disadvantage themselves if they don’t also provide childcare subsidies, Stake’s HR guru says.
Aline Van Koninckxloo, head of people and culture at digital share trading fintech Stake, says the company has recently introduced a new employee package designed to help new parents and aid their eventual return to the office.
Central to the plan is 10 weeks of fully-paid parental leave for parents, regardless of their gender or caregiver status, on top of government leave entitlements.
The plan also offers an additional six weeks of paid leave for the birthing parent.
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Stake will also provide the superannuation guarantee through parental leave period, she says.
But the program will also provide up to two years of childcare reimbursements, totaling $1000 per month for 12 months, and $500 per month for the following 12 months.
Those reimbursements are designed to chip away at overwhelming childcare costs which frequently disincentivise new parents, particularly new mothers, from re-entering the workforce, Van Koninckxloo says.
“The main issue in Australia is that you can choose to have a baby, and you have decent parental leave opportunities offered by the government,” she told SmartCompany.
“But it is very difficult then for for you to come back to work, because it doesn’t make any financial sense to do so.”
The new entitlements speak to a major theme of the recent Jobs and Skills Summit: the fact that women’s workforce participation is far lower than it could be, with extraordinarily capable professionals often locked out of the jobs market by the soaring costs of childcare.
But beyond the broad economic toll of Australia missing that workplace expertise, Van Koninckxloo says companies could also set themselves back by not proactively offering ways to meaningfully re-engage new parents with the workplace.
Parental leave allowances above and beyond those provided by the government are “great, and it should continue to happen”, Van Koninckxloo says.
“But from a company perspective, [if] you have invested in that person, you’re not having any return [if] they don’t return to work afterwards.”
The childcare allowance is “really is part of that investment to actually close the loop and make sure that the person comes back”, she adds.
“And, yes, it’s an extra cost. But then you have someone who has already been with the company, you don’t lose the knowledge, don’t lose the skills.”
Backdropped by a tight labour market — in which skilled tech workers are largely free to choose their preferred workplace — Stake hopes the upgraded package, along with additional staff training budgets, mental health days, and Sorry Business leave for First Nations employees, will serve as an example for the industry more broadly.
“I want to impact every single employee in the company,” Van Koninckxloo said.
“But I also want to positively impact people outside of Stake wherever we can, it would be a missed opportunity otherwise.”