Employer of Choice for Women EOWA Acknowledgement
In early 2011 Alcoa was named an ‘Employer of Choice’ for Women by the Federal Government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) for the 10th consecutive year.
The Employer of Choice for Women citation is an acknowledgment by EOWA of organisations that are recognising and advancing women in the workplace. To be recognised as an Employer of Choice for Women, employers are required to meet stringent criteria which include offering a minimum of six weeks paid maternity leave after 12 months of service; providing the ability for female managers to work part-time; ensuring the percentage of female managers is the same or greater than 28% or the industry average, and ensuring a pay equity analysis has been undertaken and any gap identified is less than their industry average.
Below, read the stories of some Alcoa women.
Lisa Mills, Anglesea Power Station
Lisa Mills has been with Alcoa for eight years and has taken maternity leave twice since joining the company. Lisa is Anglesea Power Station’s Mine Environmental Scientist and is married with a son and a daughter.
“As a female in professional employment, it would be very difficult to start a family without paid maternity leave,” Lisa said.
“I’m of the view that it’s so important for both the mother’s and child’s wellbeing to have that first 12 months as bonding time. Due to the parental leave policies Alcoa has in place, I was afforded that chance.
“With my first lot of maternity leave, I returned to work part-time, three days a week, seven hours per day. With my second lot of leave, I also returned part-time – firstly one day per week for a few months, and then up to two days a week – and that remains my current arrangement. I’m also job sharing now which is working out really well.
“I have only worked for one other company, but Alcoa’s flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies are far superior to the previous company I was at.”
Adele Peters, Wagerup Refinery
Adele Peters is the Executive Assistant to Alcoa’s Wagerup Refinery Manager in Western Australia, and has been with the company for nearly 10 years. She’s a single parent with a young daughter and after receiving 13 weeks paid maternity leave from Alcoa, she returned to work 12 months later.
Prior to giving birth to Aurora, Adele worked full-time. But after becoming a mum, she returned part-time under a 0.5 job-share arrangement in the same Executive Assistant role.
“The paid maternity leave I received from Alcoa was invaluable. Alcoa also approved my 12 months leave at half pay, so I had a very welcome cash flow for 26 weeks,” Adele said.
“Without a doubt, Alcoa is the best employer I have worked for in terms of conditions and flexibility. Sometimes you need time off to care for your child due to sickness, and you must be able to take that time without feeling guilty or anxious about your employer’s expectations.
“Before I went on maternity leave, my now job-share colleague and I simultaneously voiced our desire to job-share when I returned to work. We had assumed that since Alcoa was in the grips of the global financial crisis at the time, and cost saving measures included restrictions around new recruitment, our chances of being granted job-share would be slim.
“But with support from our direct managers, our application was approved a month before I was due to return to work,” Adele explains.
“We have new found flexibility, in that we provide our own relief for swapped rostered days and annual leave.
“Job-sharing benefits Alcoa as well because we now have two heads looking at the same issues and problems, and we have the opportunity to learn from each other’s skills and experiences to improve upon our own performance.
“The benefits of increased productivity and improved employee morale are difficult to measure but employee retention stats don’t lie. Alcoa has retained two professionals with over 20 years combined experience within the business, who now offer the organisation renewed enthusiasm and loyalty.
“I consider myself very fortunate to be employed by an organisation that has allowed me the best of both worlds – returning to a job I love, part-time, and valuable time at home with my daughter …. why would I want to work anywhere else?”
Elise Jeffery, Anglesea Power Station
Elise is the Mine Environmental Scientist at Alcoa Anglesea and is responsible for the rehabilitation of the site’s open-cut coal mine as well as co-managing the surrounding lease area (over 7000ha) with Parks Victoria. Elise has been with Alcoa for eight years, and is currently in a job-share arrangement after returning to work following the birth of her daughter Charlotte in March 2009.
“I have returned to work three days per week with a review date in six months time. My colleague, Lisa Mills, who was acting in my position while I was leave, continues two days a week and so there’s one full-time employee between the two of us,” Elise said.
“I’m sure it is not uncommon nowadays that circumstances are such that families depend upon the contribution of two wages. Without paid maternity leave it would have been financially difficult for us and we could not have afforded for me to be on leave for the 12 months.
“My previous work experience was with the public sector and there is no comparison to how Alcoa looks after its employees to hold onto ‘talent’.
“Work and family policies at Alcoa are realised, not just words,” she said.
Elise said the best things about working for Alcoa include satisfying work, great colleagues, flexible work arrangements and positive remuneration.
“When I joined Alcoa, I wasn’t thinking of work/ family policies. But I did know that Alcoa had a reputation of looking after its people, which I obviously looked upon favourably when applying for a position with the company.
“As a continuing employee of Alcoa, when we decided to have a family I never thought of working anywhere else because I knew the work/ family policies and flexibility offered by Alcoa were exceptional – and that’s exactly what I have experienced.”
Jill Delany, Point Henry Smelter & Anglesea Power Station
Human Resources Consultant at Alcoa’s Point Henry and Anglesea operations, Jill Delany, has been with Alcoa for 14 years. She provides HR support across areas including performance management, policy information, employee relations and the Alcoa Employee Assistance Program. Jill is married with two young girls and, while being with Alcoa, has taken 13 weeks paid maternity leave twice.
In consultation with Jill, Alcoa found her a position which would suit her new circumstances when she returned to work after her first child.
“I returned to work four days a week and the nature of my new role gave me increased flexibility. I was even able to work one of those days from home,” Jill said.
“Eight months after my second child I returned to work two and a half days a week. Again my role had some flexibility so I was able to initially work from home totally, before returning to life on site. Today, I work three days per week.
“Working in HR I know how important it is to offer some form of paid maternity leave - not only does it attract potential employees but it also absolutely helps with talent retention.
“I’ve personally found that the paid maternity leave I received from Alcoa offered normality for a period of time in my life when there were such big changes in terms of leaving the workforce for a period and having a new baby,” Jill said.
Amy Henderson, Pinjarra Refinery
Amy is Pinjarra Refinery’s Employee Relations Consultant and has been with the company for nearly four years. Amy is married with a 2 year old son and took maternity leave during 2007/ 2008.
“When I took maternity leave, 12 months leave from work was the legal requirement, but I was actually allowed 14 months off work. My manager allowed me extra time so I could organise day care which was difficult to find at the time,” Amy explained.
“I came back to work part-time, three days a week. It was difficult returning to work at first, juggling an intense job with a baby, but I’ve actually found that being a mum has made is easier to prioritise and multi-task while at work.
“Working in an HR role, I understand the cost of paid maternity to organisations and that makes me even more grateful that Alcoa offers 13 weeks when legally it doesn’t have to provide any paid leave.
“I took the half-pay option, and found that during the first six months of my maternity leave it barely impacted my family’s financial position. My husband was made redundant on Christmas Eve 2008 and decided to pursue study. Once again, the flexible work options that Alcoa offers allowed me to work and be the main bread-winner while my husband studied.
“My boss, who is a single man with no children, met me several times during my time off work - with baby in tow - and has been very flexible in my return to work plans.
“Even now he offers flexibility with revised start and finish times and work-from-home options, and trusts me to ensure I make it work and the tasks get done.
“Alcoa is the only organisation I have worked for that financially supports you when you have had a child. It is the only company with such a generous sick leave program (Extended Sick Leave, in the case of a difficult pregnancy), and the only company that would have accommodated me returning to a part-time role in the same position.
“I have previously worked fly-in fly-out, and this would definitely not have been a suitable arrangement to raise a child. Alcoa, being local, being able to earn good money, and being flexible, are the key advantages to working at Alcoa.”
Amy says Alcoa’s work and family policies were something that attracted her to the company: “I made sure I reviewed the Parental Leave Policy before accepting the position. Those policies are also something that make me want to stay with the company, because the work/life balance is something that is always a challenge whether you have kids or not.”
“Managing school hours and extra-curricular activities as my child gets older will have its own challenges and, knowing that I can still advance in my career while being a mum, is one of the main reasons why I plan on staying with Alcoa.”
Karen Racco, Pinjarra Refinery
Karen Racco has been with Alcoa for 22 years and is a Senior Environmental Health and Safety Consultant. She is married with two young girls and has taken maternity leave twice while at Alcoa.
Following Karen’s first maternity leave, and 12 months off work, she returned in a part-time capacity, while after the second child she moved into a job-share role as an Occupational Hygienist.
“It’s very important for organisations to offer some form of paid maternity leave - especially if employees have been with the company less than 7 years. I was fortunate because I was able to take some long-service-leave during my time off work which really helped manage the impacts of going from two wages down to one.
“Thanks to the paid maternity leave from Alcoa, my husband and I could continue to make choices for our lifestyle and our children, rather than be forced back to work too soon.”
Karen sees the biggest challenge for working mums and dads as juggling time between work and family: “Not feeling guilty if you need to go home abruptly because your child is sick, for example, is a big challenge - but Alcoa has an organisational culture where this is ok. In my experience it’s usually people’s own perception, of what other people might think, that’s the biggest problem!”
Rachel Mottram, Pinjarra Refinery
Rachel Mottram has worked for Alcoa for over 13 years. She is the company’s Business System Manager at the Pinjarra Refinery. Rachel develops and implements systems in the operations area to improve productivity and business results. She also has two children under five.
Rachel has taken maternity leave twice since joining Alcoa and five months after the first child she returned to work full-time. Eight months after the second child, she also returned full-time.
”I was very grateful for the 13 weeks paid maternity leave and also used other accrued leave to extend my time at home. It’s very difficult learning to balance work and family but my Manager was open to flexible arrangements on returning to work,” Rachel said.
“After the first child, I came back to work in the Operations Centre Manager role without any flexible arrangements – which is what this type of role requires. But after my second child I returned with flexibility including varied start and finish times and working from home arrangements. This made all the difference to being able to transition smoothly back into full-time work.”
Rachel says Alcoa’s work and family policies were not something that initially attracted her to the company: “You don’t think about it when you are young and single, but those policies are certainly helping to support me now,” she said.
“Alcoa has come a very long way in providing a work place that’s supportive of work arrangements that are important to female employees. The most challenging area remaining for Alcoa is in the work design of the line roles – which are very closely linked to a 24 hour process requiring long hours and flexibility of your personal life to support the role. But, as we implement systems and improve our planning processes we should improve the ability to manage these roles and improve work/ life balance for all employees.”
Flexibility, diversity and work/ life blend initiatives
Alcoa: Employer of Choice for Women in 2011
Our People: Hear from more Alcoans