Media and Communications Manager
Retirement is often portrayed as a stage of life full of financial freedom; when children have flown the coop, leaving endless time for reading, travel and long lunches.
For many Australians, the retirement reality could not be more different. This is especially true for women who retire with, on average, half the superannuation savings of men. Women in retirement are more likely than men to live in poverty, rely on the aged pension and by necessity, re-enter the workforce.
Leading employers are recognising the impact this retirement savings gap has on women’s economic security in retirement and are taking action to close it.
Numerous employers now pay superannuation on paid parental leave and some also pay superannuation on periods of unpaid parental leave. Viva Energy has gone a step further, with the company recently announcing it will offer all employees a full-time superannuation payment of 12% base salary for up to five years during unpaid parental leave and part-time work.
The policy was developed after a review of its employee superannuation balances revealed a gender savings gap at every age and level. A further analysis of employee work patterns following parental leave showed that most people return on a part-time basis, and it is during this period that the superannuation gap widens the most.
Viva Energy CEO, Scott Wyatt, said he was immensely proud of the new policy and called on corporate Australia to look at ways that they can help parents – particularly women – to overcome systemic financial disadvantage in retirement as a result of taking time out of the workforce to have children.
"While the new policy applies equally to men and women, we know it will make a lifetime’s difference to the retirement savings of female employees who traditionally take extended time off to have children and often return to work part-time," said Scott.
"When I became a Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Pay Equity Ambassador, I pledged to encourage other business leaders to recognise the importance of pay equity," he said.
"I hope our new policy inspires other businesses to be innovative in working on the challenge within their own companies if a gap exists."
Workplace Gender Equality Agency Director, Libby Lyons, strongly supports Viva Energy’s new policy.
"Taking time out of the workforce to care for children should not impact an employee’s economic security in retirement," said Libby.
"As women still carry the disproportionate share of society’s caring responsibilities, the statistics tell us that they also accumulate significantly less retirement savings," she said.
"Viva Energy is to be congratulated for taking positive action to improve the retirement balances of their employees who are also working parents."
The company also hopes the policy will encourage men to take up part-time work and attract more women to its male-dominated workforce.