Premier construction company Multiplex has launched a new parental leave and support policy in Australia which aims to support parents during periods of leave, and bolster their longer-term career progression and financial security too.

And with the gender pay gap a significant contributor to gender disparity in the workplace, providing ongoing superannuation payments during periods of parental leave is an important part of the offer.

“When we talked to our pilot group of parents they told us that while paid parental leave for primary and secondary carers was really valued, they also needed longer term support,” explains Multiplex Executive Director - People, Caitriona Comerford.

“They wanted to feel like they were able to continue growing in their careers when they returned to work, and that they weren’t being penalised financially or in terms of career progression for taking time out.”

“Our policy includes 18 weeks paid parental leave for primary carers, available to Mums and Dads at any point in the first two years, and two weeks for secondary carers. That gives our parents a lot of flexibility in how and when they take time off to spend with the family.”

Conscious of providing holistic support, Multiplex also provides one to one transition coaching for all parents taking leave, to help make the transition in and out of work smoother and set them up for success on return.

“It’s not about parents returning from parental leave and being thrown back in at the deep end. We want returning parents to have a clear transition plan in place. The transition coaching involves a conversation with the manager, before going on leave, and upon return. This helps support open and practical conversations about support that is required and any adjustments that need to be made,” says Comerford.

In addition, the policy offers continued superannuation payments for unpaid leave for up to 12 months, an initiative that Comerford says is as much about creating a shift in the industry as it is about providing individual financial support.

“We know that women are underrepresented in construction. And that one of the things we need to do to shift that is ensure that primary carers – who are often women - are not financially penalised as a result of taking time out to look after children.”

“If you take a couple of breaks for children, then lost super contributions during those periods can amount to a lot. So continuing superannuation as well as remuneration reviews for those on parental leave is one way we can address the gender pay gap in a sustainable way.”

Addressing the gender pay gap is an important focus for Multiplex, with CEO John Flecker recently appointed a Pay Equity Ambassador by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

“Achieving gender pay equity is important for Multiplex and the wider construction industry,” says Comerford.

“We have conducted independent gender pay equity reviews since 2013 and have made good headway – but it requires an ongoing focus and understanding of the many factors at play.

“Our new policy is one of the ways we are seeking to close the gender pay gap, and support women to have long and successful careers in construction.”