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Flexible work and gender-neutral policies key priorities for family focused Australian employers


  • The Report from Parents At Work and UNICEF Australia has found that to bridge the work and family divide workplaces are investing in greater flexible work practices and more inclusive paid family leave policies is a key enabler of family friendly workplaces.
  • The Report draws on data and insights from 70 Australian businesses that participated in the inaugural year of the Family Friendly Workplaces initiative and are now certified.
  • Participants included ASX 200 companies, government agencies and not-for-profits across 17 industry sectors including Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte, QBE, Novartis, Randstad RiseSmart, ING, Microsoft, Medibank, APRA, HESTA, KPMG, Norton Rose Fulbright, oOh!media, PEXA, Volvo and Genea.
  • As workplaces recalibrate their new ways of working post-Covid, the Report calls on more organisations to be benchmarked against FFW’s National Work + Family Standards and offers recommendations on what workplaces can do to become more family friendly.


Key Findings 

  • Flexibility is a key enabler to embedding a family inclusive workplace culture ~ 88% of certified organisations now provide their employees with guides and training to embed flexible work practices and 68% committed to reviewing and enhancing their flexible work policy. 

  • Parental Leave is becoming less gendered, more inclusive and more flexible ~ Over 70% of certified organisations now provide gender equal access including more inclusive paid leave provisions for family planning i.e. IVF, surrogacy, adoption and fostering. 

  • Caring policies need to be clearly communicated and broadened to meet increasing and diverse carer needs ~ only 64% of certified organisations have a formal care policy or guideline in place. 

  • Superannuation on parental leave is increasing ~ 47% of certified organisations now offer superannuation on unpaid periods of parental leave. 

  • Prior to certification, 80% of employers did not have a committed action plan to address employee needs to balance work and caring responsibilities. 

  • 51% of certified employers have committed do more to educate leaders on the importance of embedding family friendly work practices as part of the organisation’s people and culture diversity and inclusion strategy.


1 June 2022 (Sydney) - Family Friendly Workplaces (“FFW”), a joint initiative by Parents At Work and UNICEF Australia, has today released its first report, Bridging the Work and Family Divide: Understanding the Benefits of Family Friendly Workplaces (“the Report”). The Report draws on global research and outlines key insights from the first 70 Australian employers – representing almost 300,000 employees across 17 industry sectors – who participated in the FFW certification process in its inaugural year.

The Report highlights changing views and policies among participants towards implementing flexible working practices, superannuation on parental leave, gender neutral parental leave and prioritising the physical and mental wellbeing of employees.

Commenting on the findings, Parents At Work CEO, Emma Walsh said: "We know tensions between work and caring responsibilities are impacting Australian families' ability to fully participate in the workforce. In the absence of government directives, Parents At Work is seeing clear demand from a broad cross-section of employers, for guidance to ensure their policies and practices address these stressors.

“The Report's findings and diverse participation are proof that with the right framework and support, any organisation can reap the productivity, engagement, retention and wellbeing benefits that come with being a family friendly workplace.

"Changing political, social and demographic pressures mean, like it or not, the future of work is family friendly, and employers who are not taking these issues seriously will be left behind."

As Australia lags behind OECD nations on family policies and employers grapple with retention and recruitment pressures, the Report considers the rapidly evolving world of work accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shifting expectations of Australian employees. It found that flexible work is a key enabler of a family inclusive workplace, with 68 per cent of the participating employers committed to reviewing their flexible work policy and enhancing their organisation practices to support flexible working.

The Report, which also presents the findings of the first comprehensive Australian literature review by the Impact Institute, found that 67 percent of participating organisations did not previously record, measure or track how many employees are parents/carers or have caring responsibilities, and 80 per cent did not have a committed action plan to address employee needs to balance work and caring responsibilities.

As a result of the certification, an endorsed action plan is now in place across all 70 employers, with 55 percent of employers committed to embedding a formalised carer’s policy or extending current policy provisions.
The first group of certified Family Inclusive Workplaces™ includes nine ASX 200 companies, multinationals, household brands and government agencies, including Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte, QBE Insurance, Novartis, Randstad RiseSmart, ING, Microsoft, Medibank, APRA, HESTA, KPMG, Norton Rose Fulbright, oOh!media, PEXA, Volvo and Genea.

The Report calls on more organisations to be benchmarked against FFW’s National Work + Family Standards and offers recommendations on what workplaces can do to become more family friendly.

Launched in May 2021, FFW was established to create a set of certifiable National Work + Family Standards for all Australian workplaces, establishing a benchmark designed to better support employees to juggle their work and family caring needs. In just 12 months, public and private sectors have embraced the Standards, with over 200 businesses signed up to be evaluated against the standards and over 70 officially certified. Close to 300,000 Australians are employed by organisations that have been certified as Family Inclusive Workplaces™ with action plans to drive continual improvement.

Parents At Work partnered with UNICEF Australia to improve work-life wellbeing, inclusion and equity outcomes for families by introducing the Standards.

UNICEF Australia’s Chief Advocate for Children and Director of Australian Programs, Nicole Breeze said: “The pandemic shone a light on just how challenging it can be to juggle caring responsibilities with workforce participation and career advancement at a time where cost of living pressures are growing. When family wellbeing is under strain, children’s health and development can also suffer.


“We are proud to have been part of the pioneering team that introduced the National Work + Family Standards and now sees almost 300,000 employees benefiting from actions to reduce stress experienced by working parents and greater wellbeing for their families including children.”

Clinical Associate Professor Michelle Jack, Head of Research, Impact Institute said: “Combining a detailed review of Australian and global academic research with stories from the lived experiences of founding partners, this report provides a strong evidence base supporting Family Friendly Workplaces. In addition to benefits for employers and employees, as a paediatrician, I’m particularly optimistic about flow-on benefits for children.”


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Media enquiries

Brooke Swartz, brooke.swartz@fticonsulting.com +61426 018 076

Lucy Wigney, lucy.wigney@fticonsulting.com +61 438 960 201


Additional Resources

Case studies: https://familyfriendlyworkplaces.com/case-studies/


About Family Inclusive Workplace™ Certification

The Family Inclusive Workplace™ Certification evaluates the policies and practices within an organisation to enable a Family Friendly Workplace culture. The recognition framework provides targeted insight on how organisations can improve these policies and practices. This is achieved through a straightforward employer survey.

With the support of industry partners, the National Work + Family Standards engage both private and public sector employers to tackle the rising pressures families face trying to combine their work and caring responsibilities. The initiative aims to address systemic barriers to women’s workforce participation and gender inequality such as access to flexible work, paid parental leave and child and aged care support.

The National Work + Family Standards outline the minimum and best practice policies and practices employers should invest in to foster a family friendly workplace culture. A national recognition framework allows employers to be benchmarked against the Standards and work towards being certified as a Family Inclusive Workplace™.


About Parents At Work

Parents At Work a is social impact global advisory group providing work and family care solutions to businesses to create family-friendly workplaces. Since 2007, they have provided over 500,000 families in their workplaces with vital family, career and wellbeing services.


About UNICEF Australia

UNICEF operates in more than 190 countries in some of the world’s toughest places to reach the most disadvantaged children. UNICEF Australia works with local partners to raise children’s voices, defend their rights, and help them reach their potential at all stages of life, here and in neighbouring countries. We rely entirely on voluntary donations to provide lifesaving support; improve maternal and child health, education, and nutrition; and to respond to global emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.