IBM leads on family support

April 20, 2004

In the war for talent, blue chip company IBM has boosted its armoury by increasing parental leave for its staff including those who adopt.

The company now offers men and women 12 weeks’ parental leave at full pay or 24 weeks at half pay as long as the staff member is the primary care giver to his or her baby.

The leave entitlements are designed to suit heterosexual and same-sex couples planning either a pregnancy or adoption.

The IBM entitlements are far in excess of what most Australian companies offer. Indeed, an OECD survey of more than 20 companies rated Australia
poorly in the amount of parental leave offered and the provision of affordable child care.

The norm can be as little as one week paid maternity leave although some companies offer up to six weeks paid leave. Fathers are lucky to receive one week paid leave with most opting to take holiday leave.

Alison Spencer, IBM’s manager of organisational culture and change, told that the company worked on the new entitlements for most of 2003 to the leave arrangements would be relevant to all employees planning a family.

“This is about recognising the role of men in society,” said Ms Spencer. “We are also understanding of the different ways families are put together.”

“The cost of replacing a member of staff is a minimum of a year’s salary.
However, the cost is higher for an industry sector like IT … a knowledge-based industry where people are in complex roles in a complex
organisation,” explained Ms Spencer.

IBM, which employs 10,000 people in Australia, has worked hard for its reputation as a contemporary employer. It has twice been named Employer of Choice for Women by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency.
Last December, Ms Spencer was named the Diversity Leader for Advancement of Women during the 2003 EOWA Business Achievement Awards.

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