Tech firm Avanade introduces gender transition leave for employees

‘This commitment helps us create a safe, inclusive working environment’

Tech firm Avanade introduces gender transition leave for employees

A global tech company has become one of only a handful of Australian employers to offer its workers gender transition leave.

Avanade launched the initiative in December last year after almost a year of consultation with employee groups, outside experts and the company’s diversity and inclusion team.

Speaking to HRD, Avanade’s Australian HRD Rebel Berenyi said it was a policy that all employees could be proud of.

“We were talking within our inclusion and diversity group and we saw the need to have a policy that can provide support for transgender and gender non-conforming employees,” she told HRD.

“This commitment helps us create a safe, inclusive working environment where all employees can take time off for important moments in their lives without fear of discrimination.”

Only a handful of companies in Australia include gender transition leave as an option within their employee benefits.

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In 2018, Westpac brought in four weeks paid transition leave under a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

Victoria’s Deakin University offers up to 10 days gender affirmation leave, becoming the first higher education facility to do so.

Some other employers include workplace transition plans, a commitment to helping employees navigate the process and inform their colleagues.

On the whole, transition leave is uncommon among Australian employers despite significant workplace concerns for many people who want to change genders.

Berenyi said while consulting and developing the initiative, it was important not to rush the process and to make sure they got it right.

She said support came from the top-down, meaning C-suite buy in was present from the start.

“This just made sense for us as a company,” she said.

“We want to be innovative in everything we do for our customers, but really, for our employees too because they're the heart of everything,

“We know every person is diverse and we wanted our policies to be truly inclusive.”

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Avanade’s gender transition leave is available for all employees, including, but not limited to, those accessing medical surgery, hormone replacement therapy, or initial non-invasive transitioning.

The leave amount is not predetermined and the length will depend on each employee's individual needs.

Last year, Avanade also increased its equal paid parental leave allowance from 14 to 18 weeks within the first two years of birth.

Berenyi said it was another concrete commitment to improving diversity and inclusion within the company.

Implementing two significant financial commitments during a global pandemic wasn’t easy for Avanade’s HR team but Berenyi said both initiatives were a priority. 

“It would’ve been easy to say in 2020 we’re too busy, we've got enough on our plate,” she said. “But the opportunity to make change was too good not to continue with.”

From a wider HR perspective, Berenyi said the experience reminded her to continue to challenge whatever has come before.

“When we considered the parental leave provision we had before it was still the best in the industry but we continued to push what we think is good because there's always something better,” she said.

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