Employee’s idea helps working families

When Westpac employee Kate Holloway encountered something she thought was wrong, she decided to speak up. That helped to spark a change in procedures, which is now benefiting hundreds of working families.

While Kate was recently on parental leave from her role in Westpac’s marketing team, one topic in particular kept surfacing during conversations among friends.

“I kept hearing about how mothers on parental leave were having trouble getting home loans approved because banks didn’t recognise their parental leave entitlements or return to work income,” Kate said.

“That didn’t seem right to me,” she said.

“It seemed like these parents were missing out on opportunities to buy homes just because they were taking time out to look after their newborns, despite the fact they’d soon be returning to their jobs and earning incomes again at the end of their leave.”

When Kate returned to work, she decided to find the right people in the bank to see what could be done.

“I had great conversations with people in the product design, legal and credit teams, and got a much better understanding of why the procedure was as it was, particularly in relation to responsible lending obligations,” Kate said.

“What became clear was that we all agreed community expectations and return to work rates had changed, with Westpac’s own return to work rate at around 95%. Working families wanted and deserved an even playing field when it came to renovating, upgrading or buying a new property.

“There was a real opportunity for Westpac to set a new industry benchmark,” she said.

From that moment, a wide team of specialists worked quickly together on a new approach – including those from Westpac Women’s Markets, Legal, Credit, Product, Marketing and the Group Executive.

As a result, Westpac Group is the first bank to recognise paid parental leave and return to work income as standard operating procedure when assessing a person’s capacity to repay. Customers simply need to confirm a return to work date and income to demonstrate they can afford repayments.

More than 500 families have benefited from the new procedure.

“What excites me most is that it didn’t matter what part of the bank I worked in,” Kate said.

“I was able to speak up about a problem I was hearing from customers and then work as part of a team to bring about an improvement that is helping families across Australia.”

The move also builds on Westpac’s proud history of supporting women and families to achieve their financial goals. In 1995, Westpac was one of the first publicly listed companies to introduce paid parental leave and in 2010 was the first to introduce superannuation on unpaid parental leave for employees. These industry-leading initiatives had flow on effects throughout corporate Australia.

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