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

​Australian design practice, Hames Sharley, has today announced an industry-leading parental leave package designed to support the careers of its employees more equitably. The progressive policy, which sets a new benchmark for the industry, will see all primary carers eligible for parental leave receive 18 weeks’ paid leave (in addition to Government-paid leave), 12 months’ worth of superannuation payments, as well as a proposed secondary carers leave of two weeks.

Beyond financial compensation, the policy also addresses the disadvantages faced by employees who feel out of touch on their return to the industry, by offering professional development, training, ongoing communication and the ability to attend industry events over the course of their leave. A return to work plan will also be implemented to ensure a smooth transition back to the workplace, with highly flexible return to work options available.

“We are incredibly proud to be launching what we believe is the leading parental leave package in our industry. The fact that there are fewer women in leadership roles in architecture is a well-known issue, so we tasked an internal working group to come up with some innovative and barrier-breaking solutions to address this. What they came back with was an extremely thorough, paid parental leave proposal which would help close the gap for staff who take time away from their careers to raise families,” said Caillin Howard, Managing Director, Hames Sharley.

“This is such an important change because it affects our staff in their mid-careers and ripples out to the broader community of Hames Sharley. We don’t want our staff to choose between having a family or a career – we want to enable them to do both. Having the financial support, ongoing training, and the very important ongoing super contributions while they’re on parental leave, will hopefully enable more parents to return to the workforce feeling supported, connected to the industry, and on track with their career advancement.

“We also wanted to ensure we had a formalised plan for ongoing communication with staff during their parental leave. COVID-19 has really highlighted for us the importance of maintaining relationships and not allowing staff to feel isolated, so everyone on parental leave will be assigned a buddy who will regularly check in with them and make sure they still feel like they’re part of the Hames Sharley family.

“While the paid parental leave scheme was developed as a way to retain more women and increase diversity in leadership roles, it’s important to note that this is a gender-neutral policy. Any staff member who chooses to be the primary carer of a newborn for those crucial early years of life will be entitled to receive our parental leave package.”

The new parental leave package was proposed by an internal working group, Hames Sharley’s Champions for Change, that looks for ways to increase diversity, inclusion, and creative wellbeing within the practice. While looking to address gender inequality in leadership, the working group established that taking time off work to raise children and limited flexibility were some of the key barriers women faced when advancing their careers. Through an extensive company-wide survey and researching other industry parental leave policies available, the working group developed the new policy.

“Diversity and inclusion is very important for us at Hames Sharley, and it’s fantastic that we are in the process of developing new policies that help to formalise our beliefs. Being a creative agency, creative wellbeing is also equally important, and it’s not something that can be achieved if staff are stressed about returning to work or worried about missing their families. We aim to create the most nurturing, supportive work environment which allows parents to do their best creative work without sacrificing their commitment to family,” said Mr Howard.

Hames Sharley’s paid parental policy has recently been rolled out, and has been extended to two staff members currently on maternity leave.

The policy includes, but is not limited to:

• Superannuation Continuity of up to 12 months
• Matching of the Government’s 18-week payment (taken after or on top of the govt payment), thus providing 18-36 week’s leave
• Secondary carers leave of up to six weeks (including the Government two weeks)
• Formalising and budgeting for a more substantive return to work program
• Ongoing invitation to all Hames Sharley social events whilst on parental leave
• Staff member to have a designated Hames Sharley ‘buddy’ to be a point-of-contact throughout
• Access to all professional development and supplier visits
• The ability to negotiate a return on a part-time basis