The option to take public holidays flexibly and the introduction of women’s health leave are among new benefits the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has introduced in its enhanced leave policy.
“Employees at AFCA can now enjoy public holidays in a way that is more meaningful for them, by choosing to swap out a public holiday for another day of cultural or religious significance, or simply because it is more convenient,” Chief Operating Officer Justin Untersteiner said.
This applies to state-recognised public holidays, including Australia Day, the Easter long weekend, Anzac Day and the King’s Birthday.
To support the needs of First Nations employees, the ombudsman service also introduced five days of paid Sorry Business leave. This provision supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees who have lost a loved one to fulfil responsibilities and participate in cultural events with their community. The benefit is available for First Nations employees from day one of employment and is available per circumstance. This means that if an employee loses more than one loved one in a year, the five days are available to them on each occasion.
“These policies and strategies aren’t just ‘shiny things’ or marketing – we do them because they help our people,” Mr Untersteiner said.
AFCA also introduced a number of enhancements to support women’s health and families.
In what AFCA has named “Women’s+ Health leave”, female employees are now entitled to five days paid leave to support their unique health needs across all life stages. This includes, but is not limited to, menstruation, fertility care, endometriosis and menopause. This benefit is also available to employees who have female reproductive organs but do not identify as women.
The ombudsman service also increased early pregnancy loss leave from 5 to 10 days paid, per circumstance, while employees or their partner who experience pregnancy loss after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy will now be entitled to take 18 weeks paid leave.
In recent feedback an AFCA employee shared, “The new leave benefits are monumental in so many ways. As an immigrant, woman and a member of a minority community in Australia, I have never felt so heard or seen.”
Parents will now also be able to take 18 weeks of paid parental leave, up from 16 weeks previously.
These improvements come just over a year after AFCA last updated its leave policy, removing the traditional reference to primary and secondary caregivers and allowing parents to spread their parental leave over two years.
“We are constantly striving to improve as an organisation, to make sure AFCA is a great place to work for our people, and to attract and retain the best talent,” Mr Untersteiner said.
“What we also know is that what seems forward-thinking today will be normal tomorrow. So we will continue to review our leave policies, and every year we will keep pushing harder.”
The enhanced leave benefits also include increasing paid personal leave to 15 days and aligning long service leave entitlements after seven years continuous service, no matter where people are based.
About AFCA – The Australian Financial Complaints Authority provides free, fair and independent help with financial disputes for consumers and small businesses and their financial firms, in areas such as banking, credit, insurance, advice, investments and superannuation. It employs about 1,000 people.