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WestpacTrust at Forefront of Parental Leave

WestpacTrust is the New Zealand division of Westpac Banking Corporation, which is incorporated in New South Wales, Australia

23 June 2002 For Immediate Release

WestpacTrust at Forefront of Parental Leave

WestpacTrust will lead the banking sector with the introduction of its new parental leave provisions on July 1, 2002. New parents will receive 100% of their salary under the scheme that tops up the government’s 12 week paid parental leave.

The initiative sets a new standard for the way companies treat staff and their families says WestpacTrust GM People and Performance Andrew MacKenzie. “Parenthood is both intensely joyous and intensely demanding. We are proud to support our staff at this critical time of life when their new child arrives.

“WestpacTrust’s scheme is leading edge - among the best of the best in New Zealand. The provisions will make a real difference to the quality of life for new parents and give them much-needed reassurance.”

On 1 July 2002 paid parental leave becomes law in New Zealand, providing a maximum payment of $325 gross per week for up to 12 weeks. The WestpacTrust scheme tops up the Government’s fortnightly paid parental leave payments to 66% of the primary caregiver’s salary, plus a lump sum payment of the remaining 34% three months after an employee returns to work in a full capacity. This gives employees 100% of their salary for the 12 week period.

Andrew MacKenzie says the scheme recognises that everyone benefits from a parent’s ability to make a successful transition from home to work after the birth of a child. “The initiative is hugely important for WestpacTrust, its staff and customers. It provides the best possible start for staff and their families, will ensure more of our highly trained staff return, and maintains continuity of relationship with our customers. It also gives staff career continuity and removes one of the common barriers for those women wanting to move through management ranks”.

“WestpacTrust now leads the financial sector in valuing the contribution of staff who are parents. We take our social responsibilities seriously and are delighted to announce these new initiatives, which complement the government’s paid parental leave. The scheme will apply to all eligible staff across the bank’s operations – not just senior management,” he says.

Andrew MacKenzie added that the parental leave scheme responds to priority issues for staff. “We’ve listened to the feedback of staff currently on parental leave. They’ve told us the key issues are loss of income and having flexibility when they decide to return to work. The scheme gives greatest financial support when it is needed, in the early weeks of parenthood. The scheme also provides a two-month graduated return to work period for the primary care-giver with options including flexi-time, part-time or gradual return to work.”

The new provisions also make good business sense. WestpacTrust Diversity Consultant Karyn Herbert estimates the cost of replacing an employee who decides not to return to work is an estimated 2½ times their annual salary.

“We estimate costs of over $1 million per year in staff turnover related to parenting – and this doesn’t include some of the hidden costs such as decreased productivity and effect on customer relationships,” says Karyn Herbert, “New Zealand research suggests only around 30-50% of employees return to work following parental leave – a huge loss of experience and customer goodwill”.

“In contrast, international research found that organisations investing in paid parental leave report returns ranging from 130-430%. We know from the bank’s experience in Australia that providing paid parental leave has increased the return to work rate by over 50%.”

The new scheme also supports World Health Organisation guidelines on breastfeeding. WestpacTrust will provide the opportunity to continue breastfeeding or expressing and ensure there is no loss of pay as a result.

In addition all new parents at WestpacTrust receive a gift bag of baby essentials, bank account for the new baby and one years free Parent Centre membership. Parental leave conditions are exactly the same for same sex relationships and for adoption.

Andrew MacKenzie says the Parental Leave scheme was part of WestpacTrust’s overall commitment to being a family-friendly employer of choice. “Staff have access to school holiday programmes, medical benefits, superannuation, shares, study grants and study leave and performance bonuses. Our Employment Assistance Programme provides free counselling services to staff and their immediate families for work-related or personal matters.”


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