A growing number of employers are introducing ‘life leave’ for employees. Should your organisation be doing the same?
We explore what is how, how it works and the potential benefits (and disadvantages) of introducing it into your workplace.
What is life leave?
Life leave is a broad type of leave that lets employees have time off simply to do non-work related things. This could be anything from being at home so that work can be done on your property, having a day off for your birthday or even just taking a mental health day.
Different types of life leave
There’s no single template available which means different employers implement it differently.
For instance, EY Australia introduced unpaid life leave for its employees in 2019, giving them between six and 12 weeks to ‘explore interests’ outside of work, such as travel or study. In contrast, in 2020, CBA introduced three days’ paid life leave for its employees.
CBA’s policy had its critics because, at the same time, some employees’ sick leave entitlements were reduced from 15 days to 12 days. CBA also only allowed employees to take the life leave entitlement if they’d used up their entire annual leave entitlement of previous 12 months and had less than a total 20 days’ accrued annual leave.
Still, an internal survey released by CBA showed an overwhelming majority of employees – as many as 80% – welcomed the move.
Why wouldn’t you just increase annual leave?
Annual leave is different from life leave because it is a statutory entitlement for all employees regulated by the National Employment Standards (NES).
That means the NES provide for the situations under which an employee is entitled to annual leave and outline the minimum employers must provide. Importantly, they also specify that it ‘accumulates’ – something which isn’t necessarily the case for life leave. Also, under many Awards and Agreements, employees are entitled to a leave loading when they take annual leave.
By introducing this new type of leave, employers have greater flexibility and can stipulate whether it accumulates, whether it’s paid or unpaid and whether leave loading applies.
The pros and cons
The advantages of introducing life leave into your workplace include the following.
- Employee motivation and retention. It can be used as an effective way to boost morale and productivity at a time when wages are rising.
- Flexibility. To some extent, you can control when and how employees take life leave, whereas other types of leave can be more regulated.
- Breadth of use. Employees often like alternate leave because they’re usually not constrained in how they can use it.
- Attracting new employees. In a time when the war for talent is intensifying, this can be a great way to stand out from the crowd.
- Millennial appeal. Studies show that millennials value flexibility and diversity, and this leave can be a good way to appeal to these newer employers.
- Cost effectiveness. Depending on your obligations, you may not have to pay leave loading or allow employees to accumulate leave.
There could, however, be some downsides to introducing life leave too.
- The cost. Regardless of any cost savings compared to annual leave, giving all your employees any form of extra leave can be a costly exercise.
- Workplace absences. If you’re a business that’s already ‘pushed to the limit’, giving staff extra time off may mean you’re less productive.
- Unnecessary. If employees already enjoy other perks, such as additional annual leave or sick leave, introducing even more leave may be of limited benefit.
What alternatives are there?
If it all seems a bridge too far for your workplace but you want some of its benefits, you could always introduce more paid – or unpaid – annual leave. Alternatively, a lot of workplaces we work with have perks such as a day off for a birthday, a day off for family commitments, an extra long weekend or two a year or flexible public holidays. Some even offer unlimited leave.
Should your workplace introduce life leave?
Whether or not you should introduce life leave at your workplace depends on a number of factors, not least of which is the type of work you do. After all, while life leave lends itself to service-based jobs – such as accounting or financial services – it would be a much trickier proposition in industries that require someone to be present – such as manufacturing or retail.
That said, the flexibility that comes with life leave – both from an employer and employee perspective – makes it an increasingly attractive proposition.
If you’d like to know more about introducing it into your workplace, get in touch.
Building a positive workplace culture is no easy task. It requires vision, organisation, patience and persistence. These elements are difficult enough to bring together even when you do everything right. But when you start getting things wrong they become almost impossible.
So, what common mistakes are businesses making and how can you avoid creating toxic work culture?
Workplace culture mistake one: being too simplistic
A recent article published in the Harvard Business Review based on extensive Gartner research found that many businesses are too simple when it comes to describing their workplace culture.
Managers tend to resort to a generic and overused set of adjectives to describe their workplace culture. These include high-performing, collaborative, innovative, customer-focused, entrepreneurial, results-oriented, transparent, and trusting.
The problem with this approach is that the buzzword chosen often doesn’t reflect what’s happening in the day-to-day operations of the company.
According to the same article, this leads to a “say/do” gap which employees see as hypocritical. The result is a loss of moral rather than a boost to it.
How to avoid
It can be easy to describe your workplace culture using buzzwords. But if they don’t reflect reality, you’re doing more harm than good. Speak to the tension between where you would be in an ideal world and the reality of what needs to happen on the ground.
Instead of professing a “culture of innovation”, try “we support a culture of innovation while continuing to seek growth and profits from legacy businesses.”
Workplace culture mistake two: letting the data speak for itself
Many companies rely solely on employee surveys to measure how their workplace culture is performing. Relying on data like this can be very misleading. As workers fear reprisals, feedback is usually sanitised so that it doesn’t tell the real story. Businesses end up relying on meaningless or inaccurate feedback that never provides a true picture of the business culture.
How to avoid
Look to close the gap between survey results and the reality of what’s happening in your workplace. The best thing you can do in this regard is create an atmosphere of trust, where employees feel confident speaking up about issues without fear of reprisals.
Then, when you do undertake a survey you’re likely to see what’s really happening and not a sugar-coated response.
Workplace culture mistake three: not aligning your policies with your cultural goals
Sometimes company’s policies fail to support what they’re trying to achieve in their work culture. For example, a company says it believes in collaboration but pits employees against each other by staging performance reviews where only a certain number of employees can get top marks and a full bonus. Another example is where the business says it’s customer-centric but then penny-pinches. Both result in businesses failing to provide the tools to let employees do their job properly.
How to avoid
This really is one of the most fundamental mistake anyone can make when it comes to creative positive workplace culture. If you’re not giving your business what it needs to provide the culture you’re striving for, how can you expect to achieve it?
The only way you can ever overcome this one is to set up the structures, processes and incentives you need. That means properly investing in your employee culture rather than expecting people to achieve cultural goals without any support.
Workplace culture mistake four: poor communication
Poor communication is an issue when a business wants to foster a certain workplace or employee culture but they fail to properly communicate what that looks like.
You see this when a manager wants a creative workplace but fails to tell employees they want them to work together. Conversely, it happens when a business says it wants to be flexible but never articulates properly what that means.
How to avoid
Don’t just tell employees what your cultural goals are – show them what it looks like and how they can contribute to it on a personal level. If you expect them to be in the office on certain days or at certain times, let them know. If they’re expected to behave a certain way or to do certain things, let them know that too. The more honest and specific you are, the smaller the gap between theory and reality will be.
Create your positive workplace culture
These mistakes all include a gap between cultural ambition and the culture that’s playing out on the ground.
Actually practising what you preach and clearly outlining the culture you want to create will help it to take hold and thrive.
If you’d like to build a genuinely high performing and positive workplace culture get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team.
What is an HR audit?
An HR audit is a systematic review of all your human resources processes. Carried out by an independent HR expert, it’s intended to identify exactly how healthy your human resources function is right now, as well as analysing what you need to do to get better. You can use an HR audit to identify any non-compliance, highlight any HR related risks and see how you stack up against best practice. That means it should serve as one of the foundations on which you can build your future HR and business plans and strategy. Here’s our guide to using an HR audit to make sure your human resources function is as healthy as it can be.
What’s included in an HR audit?
You can make an HR audit as narrow or as broad as you like. But the more comprehensive it is, the more effective it’s also likely to be.
That said, we understand that time and money won’t always allow you to do everything you’d like. There are, however, two main sources you should review in detail in any HR audit.
- Your policies and procedures. As a first port-of-call, you should go through every one of your policies and procedures. These should range from everything from your recruitment and selection criteria, through to workplace policies.
This isn’t as simple as just checking your written policies. Policies and procedures can also be informal too. All those unspoken rules and customs that have built up over time in the workplace culture will also count. Working out exactly what these are, though, is not always straightforward at all.
- Your employment documentation. How long has it been since you took a look over your employment contracts and other employment documentation? These are a vital cog in your HR wheel and a source of either certainty or exposure.
What to do with this information once you have it?
Once you’ve identified all of your policies and procedures, it’s time to measure how you compare. Generally, I recommend using it for one or more of three separate measures.
Legal and regulatory compliance
The most obvious thing to look for is whether you’re complying with the rules and regulations that apply. Again, this isn’t always as straightforward as it might seem.
For instance, if you’re like many employers – especially smaller ones – you’re probably using the same contract for all staff, regardless of their role or seniority. And yet, for many of your employees, the contract of employment is just the beginning. There are also the 10 National Minimum Employment Standards, which you can’t contract out of.
Beyond that, however, there are Awards, which are likely to provide for different terms and conditions of employment depending on the role employees perform. This can range from pay rates to dispute resolution procedures and pretty much everything in between. Not being across each of these Awards can leave your company exposed.
On top of this, the regulations frequently change and new laws are introduced. For instance, the rules and regulations on whistleblowers, flexible working and personal and carer’s leave entitlements have all changed or been clarified recently. Failing to keep up with these changes could land you in serious hot water.
Complying with the law may be the first step in getting things right, but what about finding out how you compare to your competitors?
After all, if your rivals operate more efficiently than you do or if they’re offering different terms and conditions to their staff, their HR practices could be giving them a competitive advantage over you.
By incorporating HR best practices into your HR audit, you can see how your human resources policies stack up to your peers and work out where you’re deficient and what you can do to improve. That way, you can use your HR to help get to the top of the pack and stay ahead.
The third and final way you can use the information you’ve gathered is to evaluate whether or not it’s helping you achieve your business goals. Human resources doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a vital part of your operations and it should be used to support and achieve your strategic vision. This often gets lost in the day-to-day of doing business.
For instance, are you really promoting a positive workplace culture? Are you recruiting the right people? Do your employees feel energised and motivated? Do your KPIs and incentive schemes drive the right kind of behaviour?
By going back to your strategy and comparing how your HR processes help effect this, you can often make the tweaks and adjustments you need to get to where you want to be.
Our human resources policies can either hold our business back or propel it forward. By performing an effective HR audit you can give your human resources practices a real health check and give yourself a starting point for refining or even recalibrating your people-related policies.
Don’t have HR issues, have HR solutions. If you’d like to discuss how we could help your business with an HR audit, get in touch with the Catalina Consultants team today.