We champion inclusive leadership because we know that people perform at their best and deliver extraordinary results when their whole self is thriving. Our inclusive policies are designed to support our people have stronger families, which in turn means we have a stronger team and workplace community.
For National Families Week (16 - 20 May 2022), Bree Evans, Senior Brand Experience Manager at Westfield Marion, and Lauren Thomas, Brand Experience Manager at Westfield West Lakes, share their experiences of taking parental leave and returning to work with Scentre Group.
Bree Evans with twins Banski and Goldie
How did you feel about telling your manager you were pregnant and planning to take parental leave?
Lauren: I’d been in my role just over a year when I fell pregnant with my twin boys back in 2017, so I was apprehensive about telling Scentre Group that I wanted to take a full year of parental leave so early in my career with the business.
When I told my manager at the time, Lidia Luchich, she was incredibly supportive and nothing but excited for me. That alleviated any concern I had and made the whole process a lot less daunting for me.
During my pregnancy I was based in Westfield Tea Tree Plaza and commuting two and a half hours every day. In the later stages of my pregnancy, the team relocated me to Westfield Marion so I was much closer to home. Having the team proactively consider my physical and personal needs made me feel very valued.
Bree: Despite being supported throughout my pregnancy, I was quite nervous about going on leave. Naturally things happen while you’re gone, the world doesn’t stop because you’re having a baby and I worried about how things would change while I was gone and losing my place.
Both my Manager, Lucy Andolfatto, and my Centre Manager, Marteine Edwards, listened to my concerns and reassured me that I would forget about them the minute my babies arrived. And that when I was ready to come back, I would fall straight back into the team and work.
Having that support from women who had been through the same experience with Scentre Group made me feel more confident – and of course they were right on both fronts.
How was your parental leave experience?
Bree: I took one year of parental leave and throughout that time Lucy kept in touch, but she let me set the pace and tone of our conversations which I really appreciated as I felt connected to the business but not overwhelmed to be involved.
When I raised the idea of returning part time instead of full time, Lucy was supportive. But it was a real surprise when, after 10 months of parental leave, reducing my working hours to part time and before I had even returned, Lucy offered me a promotion as a Senior Manager.
To be promoted while on parental leave was an amazing feeling. It demonstrated that when Scentre Group says they consider parental leave a part of your career journey, they mean it. My time out of the business focusing on my family was not a hindrance to my career because my leaders’ focus remained on what I bring to the team and can deliver for the business.
How did you manage your return to work following parental leave with young twins at home?
Lauren: I had a lot of peace of mind returning to work because I knew I was coming back to a business that fostered flexibility. I returned to work after parental leave in 2018 and in 2022 I’m still working flexibly and being supported to have the career and home life that work for me.
I originally returned to work in my Brand Experience Executive role, but in a different capacity at three days a week which I found really helpful in navigating work as a parent.
Later my colleague returned from parental leave and we started job sharing, each working three days a week. That was great for each of us but also met the changing needs of the business and the role at the time.
In 2019, I was promoted to Brand Experience Manager and accepted a secondment opportunity at Westfield West Lakes, returning to work full time. It was a great role but after a year, I found working full time was a bit too much for me. The business supported me to once again step back to three days week in another job share, which I loved.
More recently I was ready to change the balance once again and I now work a nine-day fortnight with every second Friday off. For now, this is the balance that I need to help me thrive at work and at home.
Our inclusive Parental Leave Policy includes:
- 18 months unpaid parental leave with opportunity to request an extension up to two years
- 18 weeks paid primary carer parental leave
- 4 weeks secondary carer paid leave
- No qualifying service period
- Policy includes support for instances of still born, premature birth, IVF treatment and foster care/adoption
- Service recognition – long service leave and personal leave – continue while on unpaid leave
- Superannuation continues for the full parental period regardless if it is paid or unpaid
- Additional five days personal leave upon return to work
- We offer Parents At Work Career Coaching to both primary and secondary carers upon their return to work to assist manage the transition back into the workforce
- Childcare reimbursement of up to $2,500 for team members returning to work.