A Business Council of Australia survey has revealed that Australia’s largest companies are leading the way in adopting strategies aimed at supporting working parents.
These policies and strategies include paid maternity and paternity leave, job-share schemes, work from home opportunities, assistance with childcare, phased return to work and family support services.
BCA Chief Executive, Ms Katie Lahey, said the survey also underlines a strong business case for companies to adopt and support policies aimed at enhancing work–family balance.
“Companies reported improved retention rates, higher productivity, strengthened loyalty and morale and improved job satisfaction,” she said.
Sixty-eight BCA Member companies, with a total of around 800,000 employees, participated in the Balancing Work and Family Survey.
While the survey focused on the practices and strategies adopted by large companies, it also aimed to provide small and medium sized businesses with a greater understanding of the options, benefits and challenges associated with addressing work/family balance issues.
Ms Lahey said that alongside the social debate over difficulties balancing work, financial and family obligations, is an economic imperative.
“Based on current trends, our pool of employees is expected to shrink drastically in the future and this will have a major impact on economic growth.
“At a business and workplace level, the challenge is to develop a wide range of strategies to encourage more Australians to enter or stay in the workforce.
“It is not just about workforce numbers, but also workforce diversity. A workforce from a wide variety of backgrounds enables a business to deal effectively with complex and rapidly changing problems and challenges.
“The increasing participation of women in the workforce adds to the pool of potential employees and increases the diversity of skills and experience available to employers,” she said.
“The clear message from the survey is that there is no single policy or approach that will suit all businesses or indeed all individuals in maximising work–family balance. There must be flexibility in strategies and expectations, and we must be realistic about how quickly change can be effected.
“In many cases, widespread attitudinal and cultural change – within and across organisations – is needed. This will take time but the survey clearly demonstrates change is happening,” she said.
Results of the Balancing Work and Family Survey are contained in the BCA 2003 Annual Review.