EY introduces up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for Australian employees

22 March 2019 Consultancy.com.au 4 min. read
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Ernst & Young in Australia has introduced a number of new flexible work initiatives, including the option for employees to take up to 12 weeks of ‘Life Leave’.

As competition for skilled talent continues to get tougher amidst a growing global shortage, and the demand for flexible working conditions becomes ever more common, the Australian arm of global professional services firm Ernst & Young has introduced a trio of new initiatives – with its ‘Life Leave Scheme’ and promise of nearly three months off a year grabbing attention around the world.

From the beginning of next month, local EY employees will have the option to take one or two blocks of up to six weeks of unpaid leave for relaxing, travelling, training or doing whatever they so well please. Or, if the idea of sitting around for a month and a half at a time sounds a tad boring, staff will also have the newly introduced option of converting to part-time work for a period of up to three months.

In addition, parents (and presumably anyone who is inclined) at the Big Four firm can now capitalise on its ‘term-time’ program, whereby those who are willing can work a normal working week during school terms and receive the entirety of the school holidays off – for a four-day working equivalent. It’s the younger set, however, who are driving the change, rather than their more established peers.

EY introduces up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for Australian employees

“These policies are intended to address a growing demand for flexible work environments in general, not just working parents,” said Kate Hillman, a partner in EY’s People & Organisational Change advisory practice. “By next year, 80 per cent of EY’s workforce across the globe will be millennials, so this is a particularly significant consideration for us… We’re innovating so we don’t lose these people while they pursue passions outside of work.”

Citing the firm’s own research that flexibility is the number one driver for retention, and increase employee engagement by 11 percent, Hillman adds that such policies such as the one’s being introduced are necessary in the face of increased competition for talent – despite EY already being both one of Australia’s most desired graduate employers and the third-most attractive worldwide among a global survey of 230,000 business and IT/engineering students.

The firm, however, must compete for top talent with its Big Four rivals, along with smaller consulting players seeking a point of difference – such as the unlimited paid leave offered by Sydney-based strategy and management consultancy Inventium, which according to the firm has reduced the average number of sick days taken by employees to just 1.4 each per year.

For EY’s part, the local initiatives are part of a suite of flexible working measures the firm has been introducing globally, including significantly boosting its paid parental leave across the Middle East and North Africa (locally the firm offers 14 weeks for those who have been with the firm for less than five years, and 18 weeks for longer-term staff).

Recently, EY’s UK arm also introduced paid leave for victims of domestic abuse. 

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