Westpac NZ expands employee leave benefits

The company has introduced a wellbeing leave policy

Westpac NZ expands employee leave benefits

Westpac New Zealand employees will now enjoy extended leave benefits following an announcement from the bank on Friday. The company said that they’re giving their 4,500 employees a five-day wellbeing leave every year to give them more time to look after themselves and their families.

"Employees get an additional five days off every year to focus on wellbeing – that's what it is all about - the people," said Marc Figgins, Westpac NZ general manager of human resources and communications.

The company is also hiking their parental leave top up to an employee's full pay from 22 weeks to 26 weeks. They’re also providing an additional four weeks of paid partners leave for new parents, which they can avail until the first birthday of their child. According to Figgins, the expansion comes after company research revealed that men and women wanted to share responsibilities at home.

"By enhancing these leave entitlements, we’re making it easier for families to share their domestic and work commitments more evenly, and for men, in many cases, to be more involved in parenting from an early stage," said Figgins.

In addition, the company also updated their bereavement benefits, providing employees with a five-day leave if they or their partner suffer from a miscarriage or a stillborn baby. In cases of death of a sibling, grandparent, or grandchild, staff are given an extra three days of leave to total to six days. Meanwhile, as the pandemic surges on, permanent and fixed-term employees are also given an extra day of COVID-19 leave that can be used until the end of the year. Figgins added that the leave is to recognise the extra effort put in by employees during the latest lockdown.

Read more: Westpac NZ acknowledges gender pay gap

The Westpac official noted that the company acknowledges that work still needs to be done in improving benefits for workers, especially on helping them balance their personal and professional lives.

"We know we have more work to do in this area, so we’ll keep talking to our people about how we can continue to help them balance their work and life commitments more effectively."

A step on the right path

Following Westpac's announcement, Callum Francis, a representative from the First Union, lauded the company for its Wellbeing Leave, but said they could do more.

Francis said the union originally batted for a six-week long annual leave instead of a wellbeing leave, adding that the newly introduced benefit initially had some conditions at first before they were dropped.

"Annual leave is a far better entitlement. They are obviously trying to ring-fence it and manage their liability rather than provide a better benefit to employees," Francis told New Zealand Herald.

He said that while the wellbeing leave is a good step, the company could do more.

"The wellbeing leave is a step in the right direction. I think other than that an increase in someone's annual leave is much more favourable for employees. It is a better benefit but in this current environment employers should be supporting the wellbeing and health and safety of their employees. Westpac is going down the right path but they could and should do more."

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