KPMG introduces 26 weeks of flexible paid parental leave

06 July 2021 3 min. read

Professional services firm KPMG has introduced a new flexible parental leave scheme, which will see both parents share in a total of 26 weeks paid leave.

The current dearth of audit and accounting staff in Australia due to the ongoing closure of international borders is having a notable impact on HR policy, with the nation’s largest firms introducing a series of new schemes in an effort to recruit and retain talent. In the latest such move, KPMG has announced it will offer 26 weeks of flexible parental leave for both parents, described as a new benchmark among Australia’s largest employers.

Under the scheme, both new parents, either primary or secondary carers and regardless of whether they are biological or adoptive, will be able to share in the 26 weeks of leave over the first two years of the child’s life. The firm has also extended compassionate leave for pregnancy loss and miscarriage, along with introducing cultural flexibility around public holidays. Indigenous staff, too, will be granted new leave entitlements for cultural and ceremonial events.

KPMG introduces 26 weeks of flexible paid parental leave

“It’s very much about creating choice and flexibility for our people and increasing participation in the workforce,” KPMG’s new CEO Andrew Yates told the Australian Financial Review on his first official day in the role. “That has always been important, but I think as we come out of Covid it’s going to be more and more important as the country starts to rebuild… Certainly, making sure KPMG builds a flexible, inclusive culture is very important for me.”

KPMG has in recent months been advocating for an overhaul of Australia’s parental leave scheme, with a view to greater flexibility and equality. As it stands, the government provides for 20 weeks of leave, with generally the father granted just two of those weeks. The proposal put forward by KPMG is effectively the same as what it will institute, with the public scheme to incrementally rise to 26 weeks of flexible leave (capped at 18 weeks for either parent) over six years.

Greater equality

The firm believes that in addition to providing for greater equality, a flexible parental leave system would help boost female economic participation, with an alarming recent survey conducted by Deloitte finding that nearly one quarter of Australian women considered leaving the workforce for good last year due to pressures around work-life balance. If halved, the participation gap could deliver $140 billion in benefits over the next 20 years, according to KPMG sums.

The intent is to treat both parents equally, to give them both access to leave. The 26 weeks is very consistent with what our firm has been advocating into the marketplace, and for me, any program of cultural change requires you to do what you say. We’re advocating for this parental leave policy, so I’m encouraging all major employers to contemplate a policy like this,” Yates concluded. “It’s less about competitive advantage and more about doing what we think is right.”

Still, the announcement comes as a staffing crisis continues across Australia’s audit and accounting sector, and just one day after rival Deloitte scrapped the concept of fixed office hours for its 10,000 local employees.

Meanwhile, KPMG in May handed its staff a one-off ‘Covid bonus’ equivalent to 4 percent of their pay, and there have been reports of 30 percent pay-rises across the Big Four. KPMG also recently scrapped its controversial early ‘voluntary’ retirement age policy of 58.