In what is traditionally a male-dominated industry, one of Australia’s oil refiners is showing its feminine side, recently unveiling what is believed to be the nation’s most generous workplace support package for new parents.
Caltex Australia, which is chaired by a woman, says the move is “ground-breaking” because it goes beyond corporate Australia’s traditional focus on giving employees paid leave just before and after the birth of a baby, to focus on providing cash for parents to make their own childcare choices after they are back at work.
Caltex is Australia’s biggest transport fuel supplier and convenience retailer. It is also the only locally listed oil refining and marketing company, with 50% of its shares publicly traded and the rest in the hands of US major Chevron.
Under its “BabyCare” scheme, Caltex will be paying its workers who are the primary care-giver a quarterly bonus amounting to 3% of their base salary up until the child’s second birthday, as well as offering up to A$1,500 of emergency childcare through a well-known local service which provides nannies and mothercraft nurses. In addition, the company will be introducing nursing mothers’ facilities at major Caltex workplaces from 2013.
The new measures are on top of the company’s existing provisions for 12 calendar weeks full pay or 24 calendar weeks half pay for birth mothers, and eight calendar weeks full pay for non-birth parents.
“Returning to work after caring full-time for a newborn baby can be a challenging time both emotionally and financially for our employees,” Caltex Chairman Elizabeth Bryan said while launching the scheme in late September. “The package that Caltex has announced today provides these employees with both the practical support and flexibility to make the transition easier. Caltex benefits as experienced, skilled employees return to work and contribute to the company’s business success.”
The scheme recognizes the impracticality of trying to provide childcare facilities at the company’s major sites, which include oil product terminals, depots, refineries and corporate offices, according to company spokesman Sam Collyer. Instead, it gives employees the money to locate appropriate childcare facilities for themselves.
For a company whose workforce of around 3,500 is 70% male, one of the aims is to improve the gender balance, Collyer said.
Although the proportion of female employees is much higher in the retailing segment of Caltex’s business, its other operations are heavy on roles, such as engineering, that in the past have been male preserves. “The goal would be [for our employee gender ratio] to be more reflective of the broader corporate environment,” Collyer said. “The BabyCare package is one way to support efforts to achieve that.”
But Caltex is also targeting opportunities to promote more women into senior positions, he added. With Bryan and the company’s group manager for employee relations and diversity, Marie Irwin, launching the new parental package, the company was clearly wanting to send that message.