Westpac offers paid transgender leave


Westpac offers paid transgender leave

Westpac employees will have access to four weeks' paid leave to undergo a gender transition under the bank’s new enterprise agreement.

Westpac employees will have access to four weeks' paid leave to undergo a gender transition under the bank’s new enterprise agreement.

The agreement, negotiated with Finance Sector Union (FSU), also includes a year's unpaid leave for the process and access to counselling via Westpac ACCESS employee program.

The agreement covers nearly 30,000 employees, 90% of whom voted to support it.
According to FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano, if approved Westpac would be the first company in the finance sector to introduce this type of leave. 

“The FSU will be pursuing similar entitlements across the finance industry,” says Ms Angrisano. “The agreement is currently awaiting approval from the FWC. Once the agreement has been approved by FWC transgender leave will be effective 1 January 2019,” 

The agreement also includes Australian Defence Force Reservists leave as well as an additional three days' paid “Sorry Business” bereavement leave for indigenous people. 

University leads the way

Just last month Deakin University announced that employees undergoing a gender transition would have access to 10 days' paid leave. 

“Under Deakin's existing leave provisions, all staff experiencing exceptionally difficult personal circumstances can, with the support of management, apply for 'special leave' directly to the vice-chancellor,” said Deakin’s chief operating officer Kean Selway. “Until now this was the only option for people undergoing a gender transition. Deakin recognised the need for a specific leave entitlement.”
According to Australian 2019 LGBTI Awards finalist under the Hero Category Melissa Griffiths, it is important for organisations to have specific leave for people who are transitioning. 

“I believe that all organisations should follow Westpac’s lead and have specific leave for transgender people who are transitioning as part of their enterprise agreement or employee policies,” says Ms Griffiths.

“Deakin University are leading the way by allowing 10 days' leave for a transgender person going under gender reassignment surgery. Whilst this is great this should be extended to allow more time for the transgender person to recover from surgery instead of it coming out of their normal leave entitlements and sick leave.”  

Ms Griffiths says companies can be more accommodating by developing a transition plan with transgender employees and organising a meeting with their direct supervisor and colleagues when they return to work from leave. 

“I would advise that the person who is transitioning is present when telling other employees and ideally makes the announcement themselves,” she explains. “However, if the person is not an accomplished presenter they may prefer their boss to make the announcement and they may also choose whether to be present or not.”

According to Ms Griffiths employers can educate other employees by providing training while the transgender person is away.

She says HR practitioners can do this if they have the knowledge or they can bring in an outside organisation that specializes in LGBTIQ+ training. 
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