Leave policies that could make your NFP stand out from the crowd

Attracting and keeping top talent can be a challenge for not-for-profit organisations that can’t pay “the big bucks”. But often money isn’t the main benefit people are looking for

Savvy NFPs can differentiate themselves and stand out as an employer of choice with better, more progressive leave policies that can help to support your team members at the challenging or important times in their lives. At the right time, additional leave can also help avoid staff burnout.

What leave your organisation offers will depend on the make-up of your own workforce and what’s important to them. So before developing any new leave options, it’s important to consult with your team and find out what sorts of leave they might want or need.

Here are 12 different types of leave your organisation could consider offering: 

1. Vaccine leave

Getting vaccinated is a key part of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic – and the subsequent economic and social hardship caused by lockdowns. But many people simply can’t afford to use their personal or annual leave to wait hours in a queue or recover from symptoms. 

To combat this, a number of organisations – including the Victorian Government –  are offering half a day of paid vaccination leave for each jab to encourage employees to get vaccinated. 

Unions are currently campaigning to make this an entitlement for all workers nationwide. But in the meantime, it’s a simple way your organisation can make life easier for staff and volunteers and remove a barrier for those keen to get vaccinated but struggling to make it happen.

2. Family/domestic violence leave 

Family violence has sadly surged during the Covid pandemic, and the victims are primarily women. On average, one woman a week is killed in Australia by a partner, ex-partner or family member and a significant barrier to lowering this terrible statistic is how hard it is to leave. 

In a purely practical sense, it can cost victim-survivors thousands of dollars and take many hours to move out and find a new, safe place to live. 

The ACTU is calling for a minimum of ten days paid Family and Domestic Violence leave to be included in national workplace laws to help women and children escape violent situations.

Currently, only one in three women have access to such leave through their employer, despite research showing the benefits of providing this outweigh the costs

3. Pregnancy loss leave

Celebrating the birth of a new child is an exciting time for parents and workplaces have recognised its importance by offering maternity and paternity leave. 

But 103,000 Australian couples each year will lose a child prematurely and many are expected back at work the next day. This is because under the Fair Work Act, a pregnant woman is entitled to leave only until she is “fit for work” – leaving interpretations very open-ended. 

New Zealand already offers a minimum of three days paid leave after pregnancy loss. And increasingly, Australian businesses are recognising the need to better support women who have lost a child. Zip Co is one employer that’s leading the way, providing two weeks of paid leave for the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks. And if the loss occurs after 20 weeks, the company’s full parental policy applies; with the primary carer able to access 16 weeks’ paid leave and secondary carer eligible to access four weeks. 

4. Gender affirmation leave 

There are many ways you can support a team member who is affirming/transitioning genders and one of them is by offering special leave. 

Employees going through the gender affirmation process often need to take extended time of work while they complete the transition process. They may also need support to ensure their skills remain up to date. 

Deakin University was the first organisation in Australia to offer 10 days leave to staff undergoing gender reassignment surgery. Advocates note that it’s important for such leave to be available to all gender diverse and trans employees – not just those seeking surgery – as it can provide an important support during hormone therapy, managing mental health or coming out to friends and family. 

5. Sorry Business leave

Sorry Business is a First Nations customary practise for acknowledging and recognising grief and loss. This is often mourning the death of a loved one but can apply to other significant community and family events. 

Practices vary between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and may be sacred to their regional or cultural community. This may include needing time off to attend ceremonies; or observing traditional requirements not to attend meetings or other events – which could conflict with participating at work. 

As an example, Westpac offers three days of Sorry Business Leave, in addition to standard compassionate leave, for Indigenous employees to participate in cultural practices. KPMG offers one additional day.

6. Grandparent leave

Grandparent leave is about making it easier for grandparents to help with the care of their grandchildren. It recognises the important role grandparents play in family care and it’s likely to become increasingly common as employers seek skilled workers in Australia while our borders are closed due to the pandemic.

Still quite a novel concept in Australia, grandparent leave is currently being offered by Commercial Real Estate firm Investa and Australian National University. They respectively offer five days of paid leave or up to 12 months of unpaid leave to help care for a grandchild. 

If you have a lot of older employees in your workforce – or you’d like to attract some – grandparent leave can be a great way to show that you value them and respect their unique needs. In the real estate sector, which has seen a significant boom in recent years, the concept of grandparent leave is still quite novel. Commercial Real Estate firm Investa, known for its groundbreaking initiatives, is among the pioneers, offering five days of paid leave or up to 12 months of unpaid leave to help care for a grandchild. This not only reflects Investa’s commitment to its employees but also aligns with the evolving trends in the real estate forecast.

7. Flexible public holidays

Flexible public holidays help staff make the most of their personal time by working on a public holiday and taking the time off when it suits them. 

It’s especially suitable for organisations with a high proportion of employees from other cultures for whom Aussie holidays may not be particularly relevant. For example, if you have an employee that doesn’t celebrate Easter, they may choose to work on Good Friday and take time off for Eid, Vesak, or Yom Kippur.

Music streaming company Spotify has employees of over 90 different nationalities and has been offering the policy very successfully since 2018. KPMG also offers what they call “floating” public holidays. 

Offering flexible public holidays is a great way to engage staff and show that you respect their personal priorities.  

8. Menstruation leave

For most women, menstruation is an annoying inconvenience. But for women with common disorders like endometriosis, fibroids, adenomyosis or cancer, it can cause severe pain, excessive bleeding and other symptoms that interfere with their ability to function normally at work. 

Many fear that they will be stigmatised or discriminated against if they acknowledge their suffering and for these women, their only option is to deplete their regular sick leave. This causes a gender equality issue that some organisations are choosing to combat by offering Menstruation Leave

The Victorian Women’s Trust was one of the first organisations in Australia to introduce menstrual leave, offering options such as resting in a quiet place in the office, working from home or taking paid leave. Apparel brand Modibodi offers an additional ten days’ leave per year for menstruation, menopause or miscarriage. 

9. Menopause leave

Older women aged 45 to 60 make up 17% of the Australian workforce and say they experience stigma, isolation and fear of discrimination if they raise the taboo topic of menopause. At least 50% of these workers say menopause makes work more challenging. 

Offering Menopause Leave provides a number of benefits to women, including:

  • Normalising menopause to reduce stigma and empower women; and
  • Reframing menopause from something to be “endured” to a right of passage to be celebrated.

Ethical superannuation company Future Super offers up to six days of paid menopause or menstrual leave per year; while the Victorian Women’s Trust’s menstrual leave policy also applies to menopause.

La Trobe University research has shown that having a supportive supervisor meant women were significantly less likely to report menopause symptoms. This demonstrated that simply feeling valued and understood was beneficial so introducing menopause leave could have a positive impact, whether or not people utilise it. 

10. Marriage leave

Marriage leave shows your team that their big life milestones are important to you too. It can also be a great way to increase engagement (no pun intended) – especially if it’s relevant to a high proportion of your team members.

Many countries offer some form of marriage leave. For example, Malaysia allows three days’ paid marriage leave, Singaporean companies typically offer three days of paid leave with additional unpaid leave available – provided it’s the couple’s first marriage. In France and Spain, employees can access four days or a decadent 15 days respectively. 

This time can be spent planning the wedding, recovering from the bachelor/ette party or taking a honeymoon.

11. New pet leave

Australia has among the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 62% of households having a fur, fin or feather-baby. The global pandemic has seen a spike in pet adoptions and our animal companions are more important than ever during long periods of isolation. 

Settling a new pet into the household can be a stressful time, as the new arrival needs a lot of love and attention. 

Some overseas companies have started offering “pawternity leave” as an innovative way to make new fur-parents feel valued. And the practice is now arriving on Aussie shores, with UK-based brewery BrewDog offering a week’s paid pawternity leave to its Brisbane staff. 

The company says the perk is crucial to retaining staff in an industry notorious for high turnover.

12. Pet bereavement leave

At the other end of a pet’s life, time to grieve a lost furry family member can be almost as important as grieving a human family member. 

Anyone who has lost a beloved cat, dog or other pet can probably appreciate that having a day or two of leave to organise a burial and grieve the departed could be a huge support during a difficult life event.

Does your organisation offer one of these special leave types, or another type of unique leave for your staff? Let us know in the comments.


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