Building a gender equal business in Australia and New Zealand

building gender equal updated

There is a clear moral case for greater female inclusion, opportunity and empowerment. Empowering women is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. The inclusion of women in the economic cycle has a magnifying positive impact on the growth of the economy, and particularly for Unilever, where women represent 70 per cent of our customer base and 50 per cent of our talent pool. As such, it’s important our business reflects the needs and experiences of the people we serve.

Unilever is deeply invested in promoting gender equality in Australian and New Zealand workplaces and believes business can play an important role in creating a fairer, better and more equal world.

Unilever recognised as a leader in workplace gender equality

Currently, 54% of management positions across our Australian and New Zealand workforce are held by women. We also believe in paying for performance with clear reward policies and have a longstanding commitment to equal pay for equal work. Our compensation structures are intended to be gender neutral, with any pay differences between employees in similar jobs fairly reflecting levels of individual performance and skill.

We are a proud Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) citation holder for 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20.

The citation recognises employer commitment and best practice in promoting gender equality in Australian workplaces. Particular focus areas include leadership, learning and development, gender remuneration gaps, flexible working and other initiatives to support family responsibilities, employee consultation, preventing sex-based harassment and discrimination, and targets for improving gender equality outcomes.

In 2018, we were also recognised as having the Best Workplace D&I Program at the Australian HR Awards.

Normalising flexible working

One way we are addressing gender balance is through our flexible working policy which enables our people to balance their personal commitments and work in a way that meets both their needs and the needs of the business.

In 2016 we declared ‘all roles flex’ and we continue to focus on normalising flexible working. Kerry Miller, General Manager, Ice Cream Australia and New Zealand explains that “equality is everyone’s job and we need to put in place the right policies to support this because we’re all better off with an engaged and diverse workforce.”

We have also unlocked job share opportunities across our business, allowing our people to balance personal commitments or their own businesses alongside their career at Unilever. There are currently 5 job shares across the Unilever ANZ business.

Increased engagement and productivity, greater retention and fewer sick days since embracing a flexible working culture resulted in approximately $6 million in cost savings for our local business in 2018.

Supporting new parents

Building a gender balanced and inclusive business means supporting expecting mothers and fathers as they transition to parenthood.

We recently announced a new ‘pass the baton’ policy which allows any parent who wishes to become a primary caregiver after their partner returns to work to take a full 16 weeks paid leave, provided this is within the first 52 weeks of the birth of the baby. Being a primary carer is not a gender specific role and we hope the change will allow primary caregivers – as well as their families – the flexibility to choose how to provide care over the first year and knowing they can ‘pass the baton’ to their partner.

Adrian McGuigan, Head of Discounters at Unilever says, “Unilever’s parental leave policy is a game changer in multiple ways. Firstly, and most importantly, it allows my wife to return to work in a capacity that is comfortable for her, knowing there is emotional and physical pressures with this transition. Secondly, it alleviates any financial pressure that our family would experience if I was to take extended leave without pay."

"Lastly, and the part I love most is it allows me to enjoy the small moments with my baby girl. Since her birth, so often I come home and am told by my wife about the new things she did today. Whether it’s a smile for the first time or her engaging with you eye to eye, these are moments I often miss. This policy will allow me to be there for her first step or for the first time she says ‘Dad’”.

Our Maternity and Paternity Support program (MAPS) offers support, advice and guidance during this exciting time and allows our people to stay in touch with their team and the business through Parent’s Club.

We also encourage flexible working for parents returning to work at our manufacturing sites, redesigning roles to allow for new permanent casual positions, and are rolling out infrastructure to support mums returning from parental leave. At our Tatura site, we have a Mother’s Room which allows women to continue breastfeeding once they’ve returned to work.

Bernadette Woodcock, Technology and Innovation Engineer at Tatura describes her experience: “During my maternity leave, my manager kept in regular contact and they were very supportive and receptive with finding a way for me to return to work which worked best for me and the business. This evolved into me returning a few days a week for a month, while I eased myself and family back into a routine, and then I returned to my prior flexible working arrangement of 4 days.

“There is always more to do in this space, and I look forward to the day when my experience is a universal one.”

Addressing the gender wealth gap at retirement

In 2019, we announced a new superannuation policy to play our part in addressing financial security and the wealth gap at retirement. With a recent report showing that the average super balance for women is 57.3% of the male average, our policy ensures a more balanced and inclusive workplace.

In addition to offering employees 16 weeks paid leave with super, our new superannuation policy means all employees are also able to receive their full superannuation for 36 weeks of unpaid leave. This means primary carers are still paid their full superannuation for the year even if they choose to take the extra 36 weeks of unpaid leave.

There is a clear moral, economic and business case for this. It ensures that parents taking primary carers leave, who are still predominantly women, can continue accruing superannuation and build long-term financial security. Not only does this ease the burden on the public pension system, but it also helps us attract and retain top talent.

Find out more about our superannuation policy and how we’re promoting gender equality across our business.

Domestic Violence Policy

Domestic and family violence is a significant issue in our nation and one we cannot ignore. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous partner since the age of 15.

Domestic and family violence is also a workplace issue. A recent White Ribbon survey confirmed that 94% of employees agree employers should take a leadership role in education their workforce about respectful relationships between men and women. It is clear that domestic violence reduces an employee’s ability to perform tasks in the workplace and employees have a responsibility and opportunity to support victim and their family members.

In 2016, Unilever launched our “Victim of Domestic and Family Violence and other Crimes” Policy to support employees affected by violence and help break the social stigma around this issue. Since then, we have rolled out line manager training to over 150 of our employees as part of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. We also recently hosted a Domestic Violence Awareness session with over 600 of our employees to equip them with the tools they need to support family, friends and colleagues who may be experiencing any form of violence.

We believe that workplace can play an important role in tackling Domestic Violence – we want all our employees to feel safe, supported and able to bring their whole selves to work.

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