A seismic shift that’s likely to impact many companies’ remuneration and benefits policies, occurred last Thursday.
Accounting and business advisory firm, KPMG raised the bar with its paid parental leave scheme — extending it to 26 weeks, with no “primary” or “secondary” carer qualifying status and offering it to all Australian employees, regardless of tenure.
New local CEO, Andrew Yates, said that the 26 weeks of paid parental leave can be accessed flexibly at any point within the first 24 months of a child’s birth. It also applies to new parents welcoming a new child through adoption, surrogacy and foster care.
Until now KPMG offered 18 weeks for ‘primary’ carer staff who have worked with the firm for more than five years and three weeks for ‘secondary’ carer staff (dropping to 14 weeks for less than 5 years and three weeks for ‘secondary’ carers).
As Angela Priestly, Founding Editor of Women’s Agenda noted last week:
This sets a massive benchmark on paid parental leave across Australia, given very few firms offer such lengthy paid stints of leave. It’s also revolutionary given that those employers that get anywhere close to offering 26 weeks, don’t do it regardless of “primary” carer status and usually request a waiting period of 12 or so months of employment before an employee can access it.
Parental leave wasn’t the only type of leave that was addressed by KPMG.
Yates also announced that will see staff able to “float” public holidays and to transfer existing public holidays to other points in the calendar that have cultural or religious significance, including indigenous employees having access to cultural and ceremonial leave in order to participate in significant dates and events.
It’s hard to overstate how massive this change of policy is for a professional services firm.
Traditionally this sector of the economy has been renowned for long hours, significant travel obligations and an alpha- male culture that has not made it easy for women, and others seeking flexibility, to be accommodated and feel valued.
KPMG has sent a clear message to their (current and potential) employees that times have well and truly changed.
Three months ago in my blog The boom is back (part 2): wages set to jump (along with counter offers) I articulated why wages were likely to increase sharply. What I failed to mention was what is now starting to be seen, as evidenced by the KPMG decision; more non-monetary benefits being introduced or existing benefits being expanded or increased significantly.
The two most-publicised non-monetary benefits are reduced hours for the same pay and remote working options.
The four-day week (for five days’ pay) was just gaining some momentum when the pandemic hit, last March.
Earlier this week the results of a four-day week trial, run between 2015 and 2019 in Iceland, were released.
The trials run by Reykjavík City Council and the national government eventually included more than 2,500 workers, which amounts to about 1% of Iceland’s working population.
Productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces, researchers from UK think tank Autonomy and the Association for Sustainable Democracy (Alda) in Iceland said.
“This study shows that the world’s largest-ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success,” Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, concluded.
Recent research involving 1,000 full-time employees throughout Australia and New Zealand found that 51 one per cent of respondents would stay longer with their current employer if the remote working policies introduced over the last year remain permanent. In addition, 77 per cent of respondents believed it was important their employment allowed them to live anywhere when looking for a new role.
Employee resistance to being compelled to return to the office culminated in an Apple employee backlash in response to CEO Tim Cook’s company-wide memo, sent last month, directing employees to report to the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, beginning in September.
This was in direct contrast to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s edict that all of the company’s full-time employees can continue working from home even after the pandemic if their job duties can be completed remotely.
Twitter had, during the first wave of the pandemic in May 2020, announced that employees had the right to work from home after the coronavirus subsides, which was, at the time, the most significant change to office teleworking policies by a major tech company.
It’s inevitable that these changes become the new benchmarks in expectations for existing, and potential, employees, especially the most valuable and in-demand workers.
It might be easy for some companies to ignore, minimise or dismiss these changes with respect to non-monetary benefits as the domain of large or cashed-up companies.
I believe that would be a major mistake.
The genie is well and truly out of the bottle and with record demand for workers you can be sure the arms race of non-monetary benefits will only hot up in 2022 and beyond.
This conversation is one all recruiters should be having with their clients and prospects. The topic may not be welcomed but you know you’re right to raise it and your clients will, if not immediately then in the future, respect you for it