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Improved parental leave, extended wellbeing benefits, new policies around menopause and domestic violence, as well as more flexible days for employees. These were the DEI trends we predicted for 2021. Were we right? Were we wrong? Were we surprised by something totally new? Let’s see as we delve into all the improvements our Endorsed Employers have made to their benefits and policies over the last year. 

We’re thrilled to say there’s quite an extensive list below. But we noticed they all fell under these eight trends:

Flexible Working

In response to the workplace needs that have emerged in the past year, flexibility is now part of the conversation not only for parents but for any employee. Just being ‘open to conversations around flexible working’ is no longer enough — employers are now leading the conversation. 

Progressive employers like CityFibre and BNY Mellon have either updated or increased the number of flexible working options made available. Compressed working weeks, job sharing, and flexible hours are now all on offer to their employees, along with more opportunities for part-time work and remote working. J.P. Morgan was another stellar example of improving flexible working models. They started a new partnership with Roleshare to extend their ability to provide jobshare opportunities, matching candidates for roles of 19hrs/less. 

For employers like NFP Corp., Transgrid, DSTL, and Ocado Technology the pandemic has been proof that almost all roles can be adapted to some form of work-from-home model and have introduced new hybrid working models to help support their employees welfare as they return to work post-pandemic. Wannon Water have also been thinking about how working from home models can assist those employees with children, and now offer a light supervision work from home option during school holidays, allowing their staff to save their annual leave.

Healthy Hybrid Habits

In 2021, Great Southern Bank introduced Healthy Hybrid Habits. The initiative included shorter meetings with 5-10 minute breaks, more walking meetings, and dedicated organizational-wide focus time without meetings or interruptions. This was implemented to ensure their hybrid ways of working were sustainable and highlighting how the wellbeing of their people remains a priority.

One of the other predictions we made for this year was the implementation of additional flexible days off, and it seems we were right. 

Rheinmetall introduced Loyalty Leave: for every year of service with Rheinmetall employees accrue one additional day of paid annual leave. Based on feedback from their employees Exa Product Development enacted a 40-hour workweek, enabling them to close their office on the last Friday of every month! They call this disruption-free day “Investment Day”, and their team members are encouraged to spend time with loved ones, go out of town, or catch up on their favourite Netflix show!

Iress started their own Long Weekend Initiative offering six additional paid days per year for every employee to use on a Friday or Monday to extend the weekend. Global Vision Media introduced paid volunteering days. Knight Frank Australia now gives their employees a paid day off on their birthday, and Sofology also gives its people extra days of annual leave to really celebrate big occasions such as weddings, milestone birthdays, or bringing a new pet home.

Pay Equity

If you were to take one of those additional annual leave days that were mentioned above, or perhaps even fall ill and need time away from work to recover, superannuation (401k) will continue to be paid into your nominated account. But if you welcome a child into your family and want to make use of parental leave arrangements, either government or employer funded, you are not guaranteed to be paid additional contributions to your retirement account over this time. 

In combination with the current gender pay gap, and the fact that mothers usually return to work part-time after having children, this is one of the big factors contributing to women retiring with far less superannuation (401k) savings than men (despite living on average 5 years longer than them).

Some employers have been on the front foot and already provide superannuation (401k) on employer paid parental leave (PPL) and in some circumstances even continue to contribute to superannuation (401k) during the unpaid portions of parental leave:

  • Knight Frank Australia now pays superannuation (401k) on top of paid parental leave for primary and secondary carers.
  • EY now pay superannuation (401k) on the unpaid portion of parental leave. 
  • Lion now pay superannuation (401k) for up to 18 weeks of parental leave (originally only funded for 12 weeks). 
  • Toyota now pay superannuation (401k) on the unpaid portion of parental leave.
  • Thoughtworks superannuation (401k) is paid for both paid and unpaid leave for a total period of up to 12 months.
  • OZ Minerals now pay superannuation (401k) on the unpaid portion of parental leave. 

Strategic Commitments

Formalizing an organization’s ambition to build and maintain a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization through strategic commitments can be one of the most important drivers of positive change.

EY is an organization that understands this, and in 2021 they delivered their first EY Oceania Value Realised Scorecard. The report covered gender equality targets and pay parity and their annual progress against them. They recognize that these data points are important to measure their impact and progress, as well as to understand gaps against their objectives, and find ways to continuously improve.

This last year Great Southern Bank also launched their first Reconciliation Action Plan. This is an important milestone in any organization’s roadmap, and will help them build the foundations for relationships, respect and opportunities with First Nations peoples both within and outside their organization.

Ultimately, organizational change needs to be led from the top. That’s why employers like Systra Scott Lister spent 2021 implementing women in leadership targets, while F5 introduced a D&I Dashboard for all leaders to access. The goal for F5 is to keep diversity front of mind for their leadership and strengthen their commitment and accountability for their Allyship program.

Creating a Corporate Culture

Through a thorough review and refresh of their D&I strategy and policy, Transurban brought about new focus areas including: inclusive leadership, inclusive careers and inclusive ways of working. It specifically called out gender balance with renewed targets integrated into the overall approach. The intention was to create a corporate culture that embraces diversity and a workplace environment built on a foundation of wellbeing.

Employee Voice & ERGs

From promoting fair practices to providing free career courses, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) help employees thrive. ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace and are important because of their shared purpose of bringing employees together. Our employers have spent 2021 growing their existing groups, founding new networks, and finding new ways to ensure that a wide range of employee voices are listened to, learned from, and used to make lasting change.

For Rheinmetall 2021 marked the founding of the Women@Rheinmetall global group with their first annual conference held in December 2021. The Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Committee with members from across all departments was also founded with many more initiatives in discussion to be launched soon.

EY already had a range of employee networks including Unity, Ability and the Gender Inclusion Network which all help to build a sense of belonging, enhance personal development, and a shared vision amongst EY people. But this year they also launched an autism employment program in partnership with the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre and ran their first EY Neurodiversity November campaign to raise awareness of inclusiveness and belonging through everyday conversations. They also launched She Starts Out, a dedicated program that seeks to support LGBTQ women and non-binary social impact entrepreneurs accelerate and grow through a series of tailored EY clinics and business mentoring.

Employee Resource Groups & Encouraging Role Growth

At Cummins Australia Employee Resource Groups have been immensely valuable. Not only do they foster inclusivity, comradery and mutual understanding while providing opportunities to learn how to better navigate life and workplace challenges…

They are also an opportunity to network and gain visibility. Many of their people have been shortlisted for new roles thanks to the recommendations members have made to hiring managers.

Shared Caring Responsibilities

Another one of our predictions for 2021 was for significant improvements to be made to parental leave policies. From gender-neutral parental policies through to special parental leave for stillbirth, infant death, and miscarriage, our employers have supported their all-important workforce while removing damaging stereotypes.

Stillbirth Foundation Australia encourages businesses to sign its corporate registry committing to providing paid leave to employees who have experienced stillbirth. Including stillbirth in the written leave policy takes at least one uncertainty out of such a horrible life experience that no one is ever planning for. This year we’ve seen employers like Cardno and Exa Product Development join the registry. We’ve also seen employers like Canva, Megaport, BNY Mellon and NetApp formally extend their paid parental leave policies to those who experience stillbirth.

EY even went a step further to not only extend their paid parental leave policy to the events of stillbirth (as well as adoption and surrogacy), but they also removed the tenure requirement for parental leave.

Southeastern Railway were another big champion in this area. Coinciding with Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October 2021), Southeastern announced its first dedicated pregnancy loss policy. The policy is designed to ensure that colleagues have the support they may need available at work, including time off, counselling, advice, help returning to their roles and more.

2021 was also a big year for promoting equal and shared responsibility for parents and carers — regardless of gender. Some employers completely removed the primary and secondary care designator and moved to a model where the same parental leave provisions are provided to both parents. With this model of shared care, no assumptions are made that reinforce the idea of an unequal burden of care.


And across the board we saw a huge increase in the number of weeks added to leave entitlements. In fact, a whopping 173 weeks of extra parental leave in total were added across our global list of Endorsed Employers

  • NetApp: Increased parental leave from 8.5 to 16 weeks. 
  • CityFibre: Introduced shared parental pay, 26 weeks full pay which can be split across the parents. 
  • BNY Mellon: Introduced shared Parental pay of 26 weeks.
  • Lavazza: Increased from 10 to 14 weeks (PPL). Increased Secondary PPL from 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Megaport: Established 12 weeks paid parental leave for any new parent.
  • CS Energy: Increased available secondary carer leave from 1 to 6 weeks. 
  • Lion: Lion removed the primary and secondary care designator and provide 12 weeks parental leave. 
  • Altis Consulting: Have introduced 16 hrs pre-natal leave in addition to sick leave to allow both primary and secondary carers to attend pre-natal appointments.
  • OZ Minerals: Reduced parental leave tenure waiting period from 12 months to 6 months and increased parental leave for secondary carers from 1 to 4 weeks. 
  • Marsh Australia: Increased primary carers leave from 8 weeks to 12 weeks.
  • Toyota: Increased secondary carer leave from 2 to 4 weeks leave.
  • Australian Super: Increased secondary carer leave from 4 weeks to 14 weeks.
  • CIMIC Group: Increased paid leave for partners from 1 week to 2 weeks.
  • Knight Frank Australia: Increased primary parental leave from 12 to 14 weeks.
  • Transurban: Increased paid parental leave to 16-weeks full-time paid leave and up to 36-weeks unpaid leave.
  • Canva: Increased primary parental leave from 16 to 18 weeks and matched the 18 weeks for secondary carers too. They also removed minimum waiting periods to access the leave. 

And a special shout out to Cummins, who not only introduced gender neutral leave, and offer employees who are adopting or undertaking surrogacy four weeks of leave, but also introduced a generous paid parental leave package for those in Papua New Guinea.  The initiative really illustrates how much they care about the inclusivity and wellness of all their people, regardless of where they are based, since there are no legally required paid parental leave entitlements in Papua New Guinea.

Career Development

To address the current underrepresentation of women in leadership and in industries, such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM), companies need to nurture and retain the women within their organizations through career development support that builds confidence, skills, networks and direction.

Whether it comes in the form of coaching and mentoring programs, education and training opportunities, return to work initiatives, or formalized growth and succession planning, this is an area that women from all backgrounds tell us they are seeking from employers.

And this is a call BAE Systems answered. The year also saw them enrol a number of emerging women leaders in the Rise Program run by Gillian Fox. Inclusive leadership was written into their leadership development programs and men and women alike, enjoyed events and forum that celebrated the role of women at BAE Systems. They were also the first Australian organization to partner with STEM Returners, helping them hire a number of talented female engineers who had been out of the workforce for some time.

“Shipbuilding has historically been an industry with a growing need for a more diverse and equitable workforce. Through events and other activities, we’ve been empowering our workforce to drive change and to embrace diversity and inclusion. 

We’ve already seen results and have comments such as “I feel a lot more educated on how women can feel excluded now” and “I feel more comfortable to call out bad behaviour”.

“I’m very proud of this initiative and the change it will bring to women in our workforce now and into the future”  

– Claire Geddes, Chief of Staff | BAE Systems

Return to work programs and initiatives were also implemented by BNY Mellon, OZ Minerals and Canva.

EY were also busy this year in this area. They deployed the Inclusive Leadership Program. This program is intended to build inclusive capabilities and eliminate bias across the employee lifecycle including inclusive hiring and promotion practices. Engage with EY, a development and networking program for women candidates with over five years of professional experience interested in building a career with EY was also launched. They partnered with Talent Beyond Boundaries and Career Seekers to support career pathways for refugees, and launched She Starts Out, a dedicated program that seeks to support LGBTQ women and non-binary social impact entrepreneurs accelerate and grow through a series of tailored EY clinics and business mentoring.


Internal Culture & Values

We encourage and celebrate employers who proactively work to build inclusive cultures in which a wide range of people can come together and thrive. This involves removing any social, physical, or mental barriers that may prevent individuals from feeling safe, comfortable, confident, or able to fully contribute in the workplace.

Companies like BHP, LV=GI and Thoughtworks, released gender affirmation or transitioning at work policies which will support their people by offering things like paid leave for employees during their transition, additional EAP support, and a one-off clothing allowances. While Telegraph Media Group (TMG) introduced several new policies, one of which was a Transgender & Non-Binary policy. The policy will equip managers and trans employees at TMG with practical information on the support available and create an inclusive culture where trans staff are able to thrive and feel well supported during any process of transition.

Telegraph Media Group also released another new policy around Reasonable Adjustments, aiming to support all colleagues who require workplace adjustments and help inform colleagues and managers to better understand how they can support those with disabilities. 

Meanwhile Phillip Morris International launched a more general one-year initiative to strengthen commitment to equality. It explores best practices and established thought leadership to advance the discourse surrounding inclusivity in business and society.

Transurban  continued to celebrate/acknowledge days of recognition that are important to thier people including International Women’s Day, National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC week and Wear It Purple Day/Pride Month to name a few. They saw a high level of engagement in a number of key events like LGBTQ+ Awareness and TU Talk: Uluru Statement of the Heart.

Signatures with significance

Rather than launching new initiatives, J.P. Morgan built upon work they’ve been doing since 2017 around the importance of using pronouns in signatures as an inclusive workplace practice. To that end, this year they amended their company phonebook to encourage employees to share their preferred pronouns and names.

Employee Support Services

From domestic violence to ageism and ableism, women and underrepresented groups often face a multitude of workplace barriers. We encourage employers to recognize the role they must play in the systemic removal of such barriers while offering robust (often external) support for those impacted.

Our Endorsed employers are increasingly putting the safety and wellbeing of their employees at the forefront. Many have formalized these efforts this year in ways like CityFibre, Qualcomm, BNY Mellon, Spirit Energy  and Telegraph Media Group who implemented policies and support around menopause. Telegraph Media Group, Vaultex and J.P. Morgan also implemented policies and resources around Domestic Abuse. EY recently also updated their Workplace Behaviour Policy, which specifically addresses gender-based violence. It strengthens their commitment to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) also saw a rise this year with mental wellbeing continuing to be a strategic focus for many organizations.

Vaultex started VaulteXtra – their EAP Wellbeing Centre with online tools to support physical, mental, financial and nutritional wellbeing. And Megaport offer six free and confidential counselling sessions after early loss bereavement leave and stillbirth parental leave per year under their employee assistance program. Not only is this service available for Megaport’s employee’s, but their immediate families too.

A comprehensive Mental Health and Wellbeing Program through their EAP provider is now also on offer for Rheinmetall employees. Offering additional programs including crisis support, nutrition guidance, coaches, legal services and a management support program for our leaders for extra guidance both personally and professionally. 

Other notable trendsetters in this area were Toyota who offer zero interest employee loans for those in need, and Exa Product Development who updated their personal leave policies to expressly state that mental health-related time off is covered under “sick leave”. Now, mental health days are encouraged within their team culture AND their policies.

Is your workplace ready to join the conversation and help raise organizational standards for all women?

WORK180 doesn’t just promote great workplaces for women* — we help create them too! That’s why we have a range of free resources to help you implement progressive policies you can be proud of. To receive a monthly round-up of these resources and more, sign up to our Newsletter.

*by women, we mean all who identify and/or experience oppression as a woman (including cis, trans, intersex, non-binary or gender non-conforming individuals).

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About the Author
Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.