Australian-first ‘Family Friendly Workplaces’ unveiled

Karitane - News - Australian-first ‘Family Friendly Workplaces’ unveiled - illustration 37515712-272f-4a4c-9051-d041b75b3aeb

19 May 2021

Reading time
5 min read

Mental Health

To coincide with National Families Week, an Australian-first initiative, Family Friendly Workplaces launched announcing new national work and family standards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as employers and employees grapple with the future of work models.

The initiative – a collaborative force from leading agencies spearheaded by Parents At Work, UNICEF and ourselves – provides leadership on policy and practices employers can adopt to be more inclusive and supportive of employees’ competing work and family needs.

The new Family Friendly Workplace Standards support employers to elevate their workplace culture and practices to be more gender equal and family friendly. Ultimately, the purpose is to reduce common work-life tensions and pressures that exist amongst working families and create a culture where working families and carers are supported to combine their work and family life commitments.

Karitane - News - Australian-first ‘Family Friendly Workplaces’ unveiled - illustration c65c0570-d03e-4974-bfff-cf7805afa484

Karitane CEO, Grainne O’Loughlin said: “Our parenting services have seen a 135% increase in demand since the pandemic, but we were seeing a pattern of stressed and anxious working parents even before COVID-19.

“We know that one in five new mums and one in ten new dads will experience perinatal anxiety and depression, so the important support systems from workplaces, as we enter steady state COVID, remain as vital as ever.

“The struggle of the juggle is very real and the value of parent-child interaction, especially during the early developmental years cannot be undervalued. It’s so important for working mums and dads to be able to also fulfill caring responsibilities without feeling guilt in either territory – it is crucial for their own mental health as well as for their child’s future wellbeing.”

New research surveying Australian employees who experienced working from home since COVID-19 reported 42% feel work versus family demands effect their relationships with their children. However, 65% of respondents admitted their workplace is now more understanding of the work/life juggle. In fact, three in four (74%) reported improved flexible work arrangements compared to pre-pandemic.

UNICEF Chair Ann Sherry AO urged Australian businesses to get behind Family Friendly Workplaces: “We know that family friendly workplace practices can really help to boost the wellbeing of children and carers in working families. 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.”

Concerningly however, 41% of employees think their commitment to the job will be questioned if they make use of these flexible arrangements, showcasing a clear disconnect between employers and working families.

Parents At Work CEO, Emma Walsh said: “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,” Walsh said.

Karitane is proud to be amongst the first national adopters of Family Friendly Workplaces, alongside AGL, APRA, Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte, Genea, HESTA, HSBC, IBM, ING, KidsCo, KPMG, Macquarie Group, Medibank, Microsoft, NBCUniversal, Norton Rose Fulbright, Novartis, QBE, oOh Media, PEXA, Randstad RiseSmart.

Grainne O’Loughlin added: “At Karitane, we’ve seen first-hand how a family friendly workplace delivers tangible benefits including better workforce productivity, improved wellbeing and equality outcomes, greater inclusion, improved brand reputation, and the ability to attract, engage, and retain employees.”

We are a not-for-profit organisation and our purpose is to support parents during the first 2,000 days of their child’s life. The first five years are a critical time for physical, cognitive, social and emotional development which shapes a child’s future. Supporting parents is what we do, but is also very much who we are.

It is equally important for us to support the many working parents in our organisation to juggle their career with caring responsibilities. Ultimately we live and breathe family friendly workplace policies and practices and aim to encourage other organisations to do the same. Irene Strauss shares her story of working for Karitane and the support she received to balance her career and caring responsibilities.

"I am a mum of three, now 9, 7 and 3 years old and I have worked at Karitane for 6 years. When I went on 12 month paternity leave with my youngest Karitane stayed in touch with me through HR as well as my Manager. In fact it was while I was on mat leave that my Manager contacted me about a position she thought I would be interested in when I was ready to come back to work. I interviewed for it while on leave and was successful in getting it. I actually had my baby with me when I went in to interview, and it was my colleagues that took care of him while I interviewed, they didn’t think anything of it, everyone supports each other. 

Karitane - News - Australian-first ‘Family Friendly Workplaces’ unveiled - illustration 64ce6da9-01fa-4c4c-a69e-9112b5c9bff8

Karitane were really supportive while I was returning to work and I came back in a part time capacity to adjust to having three children under five and working.

Not long after I was back I was given the opportunity to apply for a leadership position in the organisation and I got it! I was still supported to be in this management position and work part time. I have always felt the full support of Karitane to be the mum I want to be and have a career. Support looks like flexible working, whether that’s coming in later so I can be at big milestones like the first day at school and then catching up later in the evening, or working from home so I could take my children to appointments or those last minute days I need off because someone is sick. I had full access to carers leave, family and community leave, and of course annual leave but I was supported to take them when it was last minute and unplanned. I was never judged or shamed for leaving, I was supported and encouraged and others would step in while I was away. It is more than a policy it is a culture from CEO to management through the organisation.  Having access to teams of amazing parenting experts and resources is for sure another perk of the job.

While I was in my new leadership position one of my children was diagnosed with ASD and ADHD, this was a difficult and intense time at home. But again I was supported to be able to make appointments for all the testing and diagnosis required and supported to leave if there was a crisis situation at school. I was able to be all of me at work, me being a mum and a manager with a successful and rewarding career with opportunities. There is no way I could have done this role with everything that was going on at home without the support and flexibility at work. I was able to talk about what was going on and I felt comfortable sharing that and then supported to develop plans to be successful in my role and career as well as take care of my family.

I not only saw these family friendly policies on paper I have personally experienced and felt them through the organisation. This is the behaviour, actions and culture I model for my team."

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