Computer software giant Microsoft will set new standards by extending paid maternity leave in Australia to 20 weeks and providing four weeks of paid leave for employees to care for a seriously ill family member.
The new leave policy to be announced to Microsoft employees on Tuesday will extend paid parental leave from two to six weeks for all new parents and from 12 to 20 weeks for the primary carer.
The leave will be available from the time an employee starts work with the company. Until now, they had to wait six months before being able to seek the parental leave entitlements.
A new leave benefit will also be introduced to give people four weeks of fully paid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
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The paid parental leave and carer’s leave will be paid at 100 per cent of the individual employee’s salary.
Marian Baird, Professor of Gender and Employment Relations at the University of Sydney, said the Microsoft agreement was significant and had set a new benchmark for the private sector in Australia.
“It’s an excellent provision and is setting a new standard,” she said.
Ingrid Jenkins, the human resources director for Microsoft Australia, said the increase to paid parental leave would give mothers and fathers time to bond with a new child, whether through birth, adoption, or foster placement.
“We are now making it available from day one, whereas before we did have that caveat of the full entitlement of 12 weeks after six months. Now, potentially you join Microsoft and you have that benefit available immediately,” Ms Jenkins said.
“We expect a lot from our people but we also understand that it’s a relationship in which we also want to give something in return.”
Jenkins said Microsoft was committed to a culture of diversity and inclusion across the company. The leave policy has overtly recognised same-sex couples.
The new four weeks of family care givers leave recognised that people have responsibilities outside work.
Australia federal government last year introduced proposed legislation to tighten access to its paid parental leave scheme for parents who were also accessing paid leave from their employer, to prevent “double dipping”.
The proposed legislation, which is still in limbo, proposes a maximum of 20 weeks made up of employer and government-funded entitlements.
If the legislation is passed, Microsoft employees will not be entitled to 18 weeks of government entitlements at the national minimum wage.
Under existing arrangements, they will be able to claim the 20 weeks from Microsoft in addition to the full national benefits.
Earlier this year food and drink company PepsiCo boosted paid parental leave for employees in Australia and New Zealand from 12 to 16 weeks and doubled paid leave for carers from one to two weeks.