The Alberta Investment Management Corp. is adjusting its parental leave and flexible working policies to make them more equitable for women employees.

Earlier this year, the AIMCo changed its corporate incentive plan, to no longer prorate performance pay during the supplemental employment benefits period for parental and maternity leave. Prior to the change, employees who took parental leave would have their performance pay prorated during the time they were on leave, which inadvertently penalized these workers, many of whom were women.

Ashton Rudanec, senior manager of environmental, social and governance stewardship and reporting at the AIMCo, is one of many employees who welcomes the change. When she took maternity leave for 10 months after the birth of her son, her performance pay period was prorated to the four months after she returned to work in August 2021. “The performance pay is a big component of people’s total compensation, so it was an economic barrier.”

Read: Gender gap persists in equity compensation plan participation: report

In 2021, the investment organization changed its top-up for the employment insurance family leave benefit period to 90 per cent of an employee’s regular base salary, allocating eight paid weeks for parental leave, plus an additional 12 weeks of maternity leave for the birth giver.

Despite the generous top-up, Rudanec says very few male employees at the AIMCo took paternity leave because it would impact their annual incentive plan, with most opting to use their paid vacation time instead. Since the policy change, she’s noticed more of her male colleagues taking advantage of the leave program. “From my understanding this positions us as one of the leaders in our Maple 8 space for offering this kind of incentive.”

Every year, the AIMCo examines its policies to ensure they’re not biased or inadvertently causing barriers for employees, says Janice Guzzo, managing director of global partnerships and total rewards. Last year, the AIMCo implemented a results-oriented, flexible working policy that allows employees to work when they want and where they want. She says the program allows working parents to continue along their career paths, while taking care of young children.

Read: 82% of global employers planning to review pay equity, gender pay: survey

Rudanec says the flexible working policy made a world of difference while transitioning back to work after her maternity leave. “I think we all know the first year of daycare is pretty challenging, particularly when your [child] is being sent home for the newest illness of the day.”

She also volunteers on non-profit boards in her spare time, so she appreciates the ability to take an hour out of her day when she needs to to attend these meetings.

Guzzo believes this type of environment will be foundational to the future workplace, noting  everyone’s a winner — while employees save on commuting costs and can work when it suits the needs of their families, employers gain access to a wider candidate pool when they’re no longer beholden to hiring from a small area tied to their office location. There’s also environmental benefits, due to fewer commuters producing carbon emissions.

The program is also boosting the AIMCo’s attraction and retention efforts. A recently-hired employee, who was coming off parental leave at another employer, told Guzzo that the flexible working program was a key factor in her decision to join the AIMCo. “Programs like this go a long way to restoring the pipeline of women in business and leadership roles, allowing them to truly have it all when it comes to balancing their work and personal lives.”

Read: How employers can support working mothers during the ongoing pandemic