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September 23, 2019

Getting Back on Track After Parental Leave in a Purpose Driven Role

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Donna O’Neill started with KPMG thirteen years ago, has been supported through parental leave and returning to work, and is currently managing the inaugural firmwide volunteer day in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in her role as Associate Director, Corporate Citizenship.

Donna and I spoke about successfully navigating parental leave, KPMG’s social responsibility and her top learnings.

Organisations Need to be Flexible

KPMG support flexible working options, with agile, open-plan workspaces and a number of staff – not just mothers – working shorter weeks. Donna says there is more understanding of what matters to people.

“People want more than a 9-5 role. To stay relevant and attract the best and brightest, organisations need to offer a range of opportunities.”

When Donna returned to work, she chose a four-day week, and takes advantage of flex options, arriving at around 8am after childcare drop off and leaving at 5pm to collect her son. The expectation of work delivery without being tied to your desk has made it easier for her returning to work as a parent.

Staying in Touch is Important for Both Parties

While Donna didn’t visit the office as often as she anticipated, (underestimating how hard it would be with a baby!) she was kept in the loop with KPMG’s daily Brekky News email, informing her about restructures, key client wins, and people initiatives. Most importantly, it meant she felt very connected when she returned to work from parental leave.

Donna gave us some suggestions for staying connected:

  • If you’re at KPMG, access the daily newsletter which was a valuable information channel for Donna
  • Be proactive setting up expectations before you go, to avoid misalignment
  • Identify key activities you want to know about as they happen, eg. would you like to be included in strategy workshops, be across key personnel changes, be alerted when key initiatives are implemented
  • Be clear about your preferred communication method – monthly calls, regular emails. Then be willing to chase these up
  • You may not be front of mind when people are busy, so remind your team you’re still there, you’re just on parental leave

“People can make assumptions (as I’m sure I have myself!), or try to be considerate and want to avoid ‘bothering’ you while you’re on leave, so with the best of intentions people can end up being out-of-the-loop on communications and decisions. Be clear that you want to remain engaged.”

Gender Neutral Policies are a Must!

When Donna did start back at KPMG, her husband (who works at a different company) was able to take three months paid parental leave, so when she returned to work;

“I did so with a full-time parent at home with my son, which really made a difference.”

KPMG has an all-inclusive parental leave policy, so mothers and fathers all have access to the same paid and unpaid parental leave arrangements. Parents also do not require a minimum waiting period to be eligible for paid parental leave, which is one of the most progressive policies in Australia.

Focused on continuously improving policies to support parents, KPMG recently announced that employees will receive superannuation whilst on paid and unpaid parental leave.

They have also launched a Fathers Network focusing on issues including practical advice for fathers, and encouraging them to consider flexible working arrangements or parental leave to improve the balance of duties at home.

Donna says that the more fathers are supported in taking parental leave, the more it evens the playing field by taking pressure off mothers to work flex and be the main carer.

Support Yourself in Returning to Work

Donna also mentioned the personal support she enlisted to return to work successfully.

She suggests outsourcing what you can, investing in a cleaner if you can afford to, and making every effort to support quality time at work and quality time at home with your family.

“Your time becomes much more valuable. I’m so much more productive now because it’s harder to get online in the evening. You become far more aware of the value of your time.

Do what you can to give yourself space, because life is so full when you’re working and have children. You’re allowed to have time to yourself.”

Do Something That Matters

Donna joined KPMG thirteen years ago as they were establishing their Corporate Citizenship team. She told us;

“I think the reason I’ve stayed for so long is I’ve grown with the team and had the opportunity to work my way up. Also, KPMG now is a fundamentally different organisation to 13 years ago – I feel that as KPMG has changed so has my role and our key stakeholders – it certainly keeps me on my feet!”

Donna’s entire role is centred around delivering on one of KPMG’s values “We are committed to our communities” and her current proudest achievement is the inaugural firm-wide volunteer day; on 25th September, all 8,000 people in the firm are encouraged to participate in the Global Sustainable Development Goals day. Donna’s team is delivering the volunteering opportunities and working with national and local partners to determine engagement opportunities.

Partners so far include Landcare, OzHarvest, the Australian Business and Community Network, a hackathon solving community organisations’ specific problems, and blood drives, as well as also encouraging people to organise activities around their own passions.

“I love working at KPMG. We are constantly acquiring new business capabilities and there is so much diversity among the people who work here. It’s an inviting place to walk into every morning, and KPMG has made the transition from full time to part time work very easy for me.”

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

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.