For Gaye Morris, working flexibly is something she’s been doing for decades over a number of different organisations.
“I have a 20 year old child and I’ve been working flexibly the whole time. I’ve just come to expect it.”
Now the Chief People and Culture Officer for Mercer Pacific, Morris says she speaks openly with her team about “being in charge of their own flexibility story and how they make it work” and she advocates for the “co creation approach” where employees help determine what their working life will be.
I spoke to Morris for the Family Friendly Workplaces Podcast, an initiative of Parents at Work and UNICEF Australia, which explores the ways that leaders are creating more supportive workplaces that acknowledge the needs and caring responsibilities staff have outside of work.
Mercer brings an interesting perspective to this agenda, given it’s not only Family Friendly certified itself, but also because it undertakes its own global research and advocacy work in this space.
Externally, it preaches the value of diversity and inclusion every day, through the reports and analysis it issues on closing gender and superannuation gaps, supporting employee wellbeing, women at work, paid parental leave and other areas employers can use to benchmark how they’re faring when it comes to attracting talent.
So internally, it needs to also walk the talk. The firm has taken an updated look at its D&I policies, particularly on paid parental leave policies, as well as what it offers for supporting people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, and those taking on additional caring responsibilities, such as care for older parents.
On parental leave, the firm pays 12 weeks to all new parents, regardless of their ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ carer status. It’s also committed to paying superannuation on top of all parental leave taken, has removed tenure requirements on who can access such leave and offers paid “keeping in touch” days to those on leave.
“We don’t require ‘stat decks’ about who’s doing the caring at home or whatever. It’s both parents who can take the leave. And if they both work for Mercer, they can still both take the 12 weeks leave.”
Mercer recently published a ten year benefit trend analysis on parental leave, and I asked Morris about the decade we’ve just had in terms of transforming the game around leave in Australia, particularly for Dads and secondary carers.
There’s certainly been progress, but she says we’re still not seeing enough employers removing the secondary and primary carer labels that can prevent dads from taking leave. She believes that will change in the decade to come, and also that elder care will emerge as an area that employers will want to address with how they’ve supporting staff.
She says that employees can expect more “co-creation” in the future when it comes to how they work, with individuals gaining more power and their views on how workplaces should run, particularly through key metrics like engagement surveys.
“Gone are the days of management teams making policy just by sitting in a room and thinking about what they want to do and how the business is going to work,” Morris says.
“We need to balance how the business is going to work with what we need from our talent, and decide how we are going to look after our talent and support them in their career, their wellbeing, and also in how they manage their families. The co-creation phase is going to be the secret source for employers going forward.”
But despite massive changes in where we work, Morris believes the office will still have a place in the future of work.
She says she personally has missed being in the office during lockdowns in Melbourne, but Mercer is aiming to offer choice for staff around how they return, and balancing that with the needs of the business.
“That empowerment to choose how you work really makes people more engaged with their workplace.”
It helps, she says, that the firm had already spent a lot of time working on flexible work and had initiated an “All Roles Flex” policy prior to COVID-19.
Morris urges all employers to consider how they can become more “family friendly” but to move beyond a traditional thinking about what family means to different people. It’s not just about parental leave, it’s also what employees need outside of work and acknowledging that some have additional caring responsibilities, including eldercare.
“I feel we’ve had a parental leave focus for some time, but finally that’s starting to broaden out,” she says.
You can listen to the Women’s Agenda interview with Gaye on the Family Friendly Workplaces podcast below.