ACWA’s Acting CEO Dr Wendy Foote reflects on changes announced by PwC Australia to its parental leave policy this week that will support staff members who are foster and kinship carers:
An interesting development has taken place in corporate Australia this week, with accounting giant PwC unveiling details of its new HR policy that aims to make life a little easier for their employees who are juggling work responsibilities with their commitment to fostering vulnerable children.
This is hardly front page news. Not when compared to the big business issues that usually grip our news cycles – the mergers and bankruptcies, the swirling share prices, staff cuts and salacious board scandals.
Nevertheless, the announcement of PwC’s new foster friendly employment policy is significant news for the child and family welfare sector because not only does it recognise the critical work of foster carers who provide safe, loving homes to some of our community’s most vulnerable children, but it also has potential to encourage more people to open their homes and foster. It is no secret that there is a chronic shortage of foster carers in our community. Carer recruitment is a vexed issue that continues to test our sector, and having an employer that understands and supports a staff member’s commitment to fostering could be a deciding factor for someone who is considering becoming a foster carer.
More broadly, it represents a small, but encouraging step towards a greater goal that involves all children being given the opportunity to thrive in a loving family. And surely this is something that goes to the heart of every civil society?
The new employment benefits introduced by PwC give foster carers and kinship carers working in the organisation full paid parental leave. They can take the full 90 days in one lump, or work two or three days a week over a longer period of time, giving them vital flexibility they might need to respond to the needs of the children who come into their care – and often at short notice.
For example, when a child is placed with a new foster carer they can be, at best, anxious and upset or, at worst, severely traumatised as a result of the experiences that have brought them there. Both carer and child have many challenges to navigate during this settling in period. It is a critical time when trust, understanding and familiarity is forged. Being granted leave from work during this time is therefore essential. It means the carer can focus on the needs of these children without being worried about their workplace commitments or their financial situation.
Combining the responsibilities of fostering with the workplace can be a tough ask, but a healthy dose of corporate backing can certainly help promote the process. By supporting staff who are foster carers PwC is actively supporting one of the most vulnerable populations in our society. It is a great example of good corporate governance that is compatible with compassion, and for this they should be applauded.