Article Feature image - Hames Sharley Architecture, Urban Design, Planning and Interior Design

Australian design practice, Hames Sharley, has today announced a suite of progressive new workplace policies as it strives to become one of the most equitable and diverse employers in the country. The new policies include updated personal and bereavement leave, updates to its non-gendered parental leave, and the introduction of strong diversity targets to achieve a minimum of 40% female representation across the organisation.

The firm’s paid personal leave policy has been extended to formally include paid leave for a variety of reasons, such as mental health, menstruation, menopause, domestic violence, familial breakdown, divorce or separation, a challenging health diagnosis of a child, and taking time to work through gender identity.

Hames Sharley’s Principal of People and Culture, Michael Wright, explained that although these policies already existed in practice, they had not been formalised until now – which was an important step for the company to help destigmatise the notion of taking personal days.

“We’ve always been extremely flexible and understanding at Hames Sharley when it comes to taking personal leave, but we realised that for staff, there was still an element of guilt associated with taking personal leave when they weren’t physically unwell. We realised how important it was for us to formally update our policies, so people don’t feel the need to feign illness if they’re experiencing other issues.

“We want to normalise taking personal days away from the workplace – if you’re suffering from crippling period pain, if you’re going through a breakup, or if you just feel like you can’t face the world today – it’s ok to take a personal day. We want our staff to be both physically and mentally well and we believe it’s really important to create a culture where self-care is not only accepted, it’s celebrated.

“We have also updated our bereavement leave policies, which will now formally include leave for close friends, mentors, and any other significant people in a person’s life. We know that not all families look the same and not all support systems look the same, so we wanted our bereavement policy to reflect our acknowledgement of these diverse communities.”

Hames Sharley has also introduced a new 40/40/20 framework for gender equity, which is a commitment to achieve a minimum of 40% female representation across all levels of the organisation. To ensure equality, the targets are for a minimum of 40% female, 40% male, and 20% of any gender.

The new framework has now been codified as part of Hames Sharley’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy, which ensures the company will hold itself accountable to its targets. The framework has been divided into key stages, with the goal of achieving:

• 40/40/20 representation on all bids and submissions from 31st March 2022

40/40/20 on all TLG groups and committees from 31st March 2022

• 40/40/20 EMG group by 31 December 2022

• 50/30/20 Board interim goal by 31 December 2023

• 40/40/20 Board by 31 December 2025.

“Diversity and representation is extremely important to us at Hames Sharley, which is why we have a dedicated internal working group, Champions for Change, who regularly meet to find ways to make Hames Sharley more diverse and more inclusive. The group decided it was time for Hames Sharley to accelerate its proactive approach to have a board that truly represents the diversity of the organisation,” said Caillin Howard, Managing Director, Hames Sharley.

“Our Champions for Change group has worked incredibly hard to develop a new framework for equity which has given us very specific goals and targets. I’m incredibly proud to say that as of 31st March 2022, every single bid and submission tendered by Hames Sharley, and every one of our TLG groups and committees, will have a minimum of 40% female representation; with the focus for achieving 40% female representation on the board by 2025.”

As part of the new policy changes, Hames Sharley has also degendered its parental leave. After announcing an industry-leading parental leave package late last year, the parental leave policies have been further updated to ensure that gendered language is removed from the policy.

“Society’s expectation is that primary carer is considered a female, and secondary carer is male, so we’ve removed this language in order to remove any gendered implications of the policy,” explained Michel Wright, Hames Sharley’s Principal of People and Culture.

“We’ve also added a deferred parental leave payment for couples who choose to share parental leave, so that if one parent was taking the first six months’ leave, the other parent could defer their leave and take it when the other parent went back to work.”