We were excited when we heard about the family friendly workplaces initiative because we saw it as a way to take another step in our quest to have the highest standards possible to support inclusivity in the workplace. As an organisation with a very long-standing and active Diversity and Inclusion Council, we have great foundations to build from – but we also wanted to ensure that we kept up with the pace of change.
Parental leave policy
In 2019 we rolled out an ungraded Parental leave policy, and we are proud to offer a minimum 14 weeks paid parental leave to our associates. Our policy also doesn’t differentiate – it is applicable to either parent following the birth, surrogacy or adoption of a child, effective from their first day of employment.
We have also made an EPIC Pledge committing to equal pay for women and men for work of equal value by 2023. Part of that commitment is to provide transparency to associates around internal and external benchmarking of their role.
Support for parents
Since 2019, parents planning or taking parental leave, and returning to work have access to coaching sessions from Parents At Work, to help make the transition successful.
We have had a long-term relationship with Benestar who deliver our Employee Assistance Program, and in 2020 we rolled out bespoke sessions with a psychologist to help people cope with the pandemic, including sessions to support wellbeing, juggling kids and work responsibilities, and staying healthy while working from home.
Pre-pandemic we ran a popular School Holiday Program for parents with school aged children based in our head office. We hope to bring this back as soon as we can.
Novartis has also responded to our peoples’ desire for more flexibility by re-imagining how, when and where we work. Our global initiative called “Choice with Responsibility” seeks to move our organisation from a traditional model to a ‘distributed working’ model, leaving set working hours and locations behind.
In July 2020 we introduced an updated flexibility policy that applies to all office-based associates. The policy shifts responsibility from manager-approved to manager-informed, empowering associates to make decisions about how, when and where they work.
We also offered a one-off allowance to financially assist all previous office-based associates with working remotely towards the cost of equipment that supports a healthy and comfortable at-home work environment.
In 2021 we have been trialing co-working sites in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs in addition to our Macquarie Park offices, as well as working from home options.
We estimate that more than 90 per cent of our associates work flexibly in one way or another.
Family inclusive initiatives
Wherever possible we consider our families when making resources available, for example enabling access to our Employee Assistance Program for family members. We also have other initiatives, such as allowing free access to Coursera for friends and family, and a program that allows our people to access healthcare advice as well.
Mia Mehr, National Sales Manager, Neuroscience
Mia Mehr has spent a lot of her career working at Novartis in its Alcon, Sandoz and Pharmaceutical divisions both in Australia and her home country of Iran. As the National Sales Manager for Neuroscience she is a valued member of the team in a high-pressure role.
Mia had her first child (a daughter) in 2016 and her second child (a son) in 2020, and in that time she saw a big shift in policy around parental leave. The changes included a shift from 12-14 weeks, but there were also more formal measures in place to help her transition back to work, including the 10 ‘keeping in touch’ days during her leave and counselling via Parents At Work.
The support was extremely important as Mia faced a number of life-changing events in 2020. Not only was Mia welcoming her new son in the midst of a global pandemic but she also separated from her partner as well. This meant she needed to go back to work sooner than she had expected and she also needed to set up her new independent living arrangements, new routines and childcare for when she has custody.
“When I came back to work after having my son I felt supported, both by leadership and also through the Parents At Work coaching services that helped me plan my return. I had to make some changes, such as cutting overnight stays from travel and fitting my work schedule around my family commitments as much as possible.”
It’s not always easy but being very transparent about what’s happening at home does make it easier. Novartis culture supports this, as well as putting our own health and wellbeing first.
“I remember some important advice from one of the return-to-work coaches. She said: “Mia – the work doesn’t stop, house chores don’t stop, your child doesn’t stop growing… but you need to make sure that you stop sometimes.” So this is something I try to make happen and I encourage others to do the same too.”