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Melbourne Real Estate empowers women with paid parental leave

Three soon-to-be first time mums at Melbourne Real Estate no longer have the added worry of budgeting on one income when they take maternity leave, with the agency introducing paid parental leave.

Property management team leader Tahlia Palazzolo, senior property manager Andrea Hammond and residential sales executive Talisa Paris will receive up to 12 weeks paid parental leave, at their average wage from the past 12 months including commissions, when they have their babies in May and June.

The PPL scheme, which was revealed in-house last week and publicly announced exclusively here in Elite Agent to mark International Women’s Day, “means the world” to the new mums.

“It means everything to me,” Ms Palazzolo said.

“It is really supporting financially and taking a little bit of that pressure off us and just allowing us to really enjoy this magical moment that we are all about to embark on and not have that extra stress.

“This is not just support for me, but support for my whole family because my whole family is going to benefit from it. We can both enjoy this new chapter of having a baby.”

Tahlia Palazzolo. Picture: James Braund Photography.

The MRE PPL scheme can be taken at half pay and extended to cover up to 24 weeks, as well as including superannuation top-up on government-sponsored paid parental leave and super paid on the MRE leave.

It also includes 10 ‘keeping in touch’ days to ensure the new parents remain connected and part of the agency planning, learning and development, as well as flexible return-to-work arrangements.

Melbourne Real Estate Founder Peter Hooymans said the agency was one of only a few offering PPL and particularly as a medium-sized business.

He said the decision to introduce the scheme came on the back of reassessing the core of the business following a difficult two years with COVID-19, and analysing what other big businesses had in place for their teams.

“That extrapolated into looking at what amazing legacy and generational businesses looked like and not saying Apple is too big or Macquarie is too big, but looking at what they do and working out if we could do it,” Mr Hooymans said.

“I wanted to move us away from a corner store mentality and move us towards a professional services firm. And part of being a professional services firm, if you go to Ernst & Young or KPMG and you have a child, you get support from the company.

“Even though that was a big leap for us financially and philosophically, that was one of the steps we wanted to take.”

Mr Hooymans said having three employees pregnant at the same time also symbolised the importance of introducing the scheme.

“The fact that we had three amazing women about to give birth at the same time brought it to a head at the same time, with us thinking, ‘hey, hang on, do we want these people back?’” he said.

“They are all amazing operators and we want all of them back in any capacity. It’s about looking after our team in the long term.”

Ms Paris said the PPL scheme made her feel supported and was a positive step for women in the real estate industry.

“This industry is still very male-dominated so this is definitely a step in the right direction and it’s no surprise that MRE is taking that step because they’ve always backed women in real estate,” she said.

“They are very big on making women feel equal in the workplace and it’s one of the reasons I love working there.”

Ms Paris said real estate often had a revolving door with agents switching franchises or companies, but she said the PPL scheme had the potential to position MRE as an employer of choice.

Talisa Paris. Picture: James Braund Photography

She said it also made her want to return the support MRE has shown her when she returns from maternity leave.

“With something like this, when you feel so valued, appreciated and given the extra resources to have that time off, it genuinely makes you want to come back to the right place,” Ms Paris said.

“I think it could definitely also have an impact on women choosing where they want to work.”

Ms Hammond said the financial support of the PPL was “incredible”, but she also valued the 10 ‘keeping in touch’ days that forms part of the scheme.

“Often when people go on maternity leave the company says, ‘Goodbye, see you in 12 months’ and then you don’t see or hear from anyone until you arrive back at work,” she said.

“I imagine that would be quite daunting. So these keeping in touch days mean you still feel part of the culture of the company.

“And in property management there are so many updates and legislation changes all the time that the ability to keep up-to-date is amazing.”

To celebrate the women’s pregnancies, MRE also recently organised a photoshoot to capture their glowing appearance and growing bumps.

The women now have framed group and individual images that they can look back on and share with family and friends.

Andrea Hammond. Picture: James Braund Photography

Each of the women said having other colleagues, who are also first-time mums, pregnant at the same time was special and they’d been able to compare experiences and garner support from someone close to them.

Once the babies arrive they plan to keep in touch and meet up while on maternity leave.

“It’s been a really nice experience for us and I’m very grateful for it,” Ms Palazzolo said.

“It feels like we’re part of something that will continue to evolve because real estate is ready for paid parental leave and we are ready for real estate to empower women in more than just work.”

Anyone wanting for find out more about Melbourne Real Estate’s paid parental leave can contact Annabel Sharkey at annabel@melbournerealestate.com.au.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.