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Growing Potential aims to close superannuation gap for working mothers

3 min read
Growing Potential

One of Australia’s longest-running, not-for-profit community services providers, Growing Potential, has taken considered action to help bridge the superannuation gender gap, affording its 145 staff – of which 91 per cent are women – full super on parental leave.

A provider of childcare, early intervention and disability support, education, and Aboriginal services, Growing Potential has pledged to all part-time and full-time employees a continuation of their regular superannuation payments during parental leave (and increased payments in-line with the superannuation guarantee percentage) for up to a maximum of 24 months.

Growing Potential CEO Otto Henfling is calling on other businesses to follow Growing Potential’s lead; advocating that the more organisations that proactively get on the front foot of paying super on parental leave, the greater the likelihood of government policy changes to ultimately equalise the gender superannuation gap in Australia.

“It’s blatantly clear that more needs to be done by all governments to improve gender equality for women at work and the superannuation system,” says Henfling.

“Government – and businesses, even if on their own accord – need to stop penalising women who take time out of paid work to raise children, at a cost of sacrificing thousands in their retirement savings. Australian women should not have to make this sacrifice and I am very proud that the vast majority of Growing Potential’s female staff now needn’t contend with this unfair discrimination – and that’s what it is, the current system is discriminatory against working mothers.

“I am calling on leaders of other organisations – especially those within female-dominated work sectors – to also take a proactive and best practice approach by continuing to pay superannuation on parental leave,” adds Henfling.

Ashleigh Bender has been employed by Growing Potential since 2015 and is Employee Relations Coordinator. She took parental leave in 2018 and is due to welcome her second child in May 2022. Ashleigh will benefit from Growing Potential’s parental leave superannuation initiative, which formally took effect on 1 January 2022.

“Admittedly when I went on parental leave the first time, I didn’t realise my superannuation contributions would stop, and at the time, I wasn’t too concerned. It didn’t impact my day-to-day and just wasn’t my priority at the time. I considered it something I could sort out in the future,” explains Bender.

“Now, as a mother and since my recent promotion to the Employee Relations team working directly in the space, I realise just how crucial the continuation of superannuation contributions is to my retirement savings. I’ll be going on parental leave in April to have my second child, and I feel secure knowing I’m not going to be further disadvantaged, and also proud that I work at an organisation that cares about my future in 30 years’ time.

“The Government should be doing more to close the gap. I’m speaking up for future working mothers and for my daughter’s future,” she adds.

According to the ATO, in 2018–19, the median superannuation balance at, or approaching, retirement age (60-64 years) was $137,051 for women and $178,808 for men, equating to 30 per cent more than women. This gap is the accumulated result of economic disadvantage women face in their working lives – lower wages than men, more career breaks to raise children and care for others, and more part-time work.

The Government Paid Parental Leave Scheme introduced in 2011 ensures working parents receive up to 18 weeks of pay at the national minimum wage. However, it is the only type of leave that does not attract the superannuation guarantee, meaning it is not compulsory for the government or employers to pay superannuation on top. Since women are the overwhelming majority to take parental leave, it is a key contributing factor of today’s gender superannuation gap.

From its humble beginnings as Blacktown Kindergarten Association established in 1948, Growing Potential has expanded to become one of Australia’s most in-demand providers of community services today, operating four highly-utilised, easy-access services across Greater Sydney, Hunter New England, Mid North Coast and Australia-wide via telehealth and online webinars.

“Growing Potential’s superannuation initiative encapsulates our mission to ‘support and grow the potential of children, families and communities’, and we truly hope our adoption of this initiative sparks momentum around the issue,” says Otto Henfling.

“Not-for-profit and for-profit organisations need to act now to improve gender equality for women at work. Otherwise, Australian women will continue to pay the price and retire with less than men for decades to come,” adds Henfling.

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Lourdes Antenor is an experienced writer who specialises in the not-for-profit sector and its affiliations. She is the content producer for Third Sector News, an online knowledge-based platform for and about the Australian NFP sector.


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