JSE HR director Donald Khumalo explains new gender-neutral parental leave policy

This move represents yet another step towards a more progressive JSE, says Donald.

JSE HR director Donald Khumalo says their groundbreaking move to introduce a gender-neutral parental leave policy for all employees speaks to the long-term plans they have to foster greater diversity and inclusion within the JSE. 

JSE employees can choose to take paid leave over four consecutive months with their partners or stagger it, allowing the first partner to take the initial four months and the second partner to be home for the next four months. This, Donald says, is now applicable to all employees regardless of their gender or gender identity in accordance with the new policy. 

"This is different from maternity leave, which is exclusively for childbearing employees. We all have a responsibility to parent our children and JSE took a view that parental leave needs to be gender-neutral, enabling both men and women to play a role in raising their new children whether they have come from birth, via adoption, or through a surrogate," says Donald, adding that the new policy reflects that the JSE is a purpose-led organisation that is deeply focussed on continuing to contribute towards a sustainable society.

“We can never achieve diversity in its true sense when a critical component of diversity such as inclusion remains a pipe dream. It is with this in mind that we have revised all our policies to ensure that they are gender-neutral and in line with an inclusive society that we operate in.” 

The gender-neutral policy also helps position the JSE as an employer of choice in the financial services sector, as well as a people-centric organisation, fostering a healthy working environment that drives increased employee engagement and high-performing teams, both of which are perfect ingredients for retaining and attracting new talent

A win for male and LGBTQA colleagues  

The policy will also go some way towards normalising the interest of LGBTQA employees who, Donald says, tend to be overlooked when designing workplace policies. Maternity leave, for example, "typically excludes colleagues in the LGBTQA community but a policy like ours that is neutral will enable them an equal opportunity to play a role in the early months of being a parent."

Says Donald: One point that people tend to miss when talking about gender neutrality is the impact on the LGBTQA community, which is often sidelined in the workplace in comparison to their heterosexual colleagues...The response within the organisation has been positive. Some of our colleagues have come forward saying they appreciate the progressive step we have made. It means that employees regardless of their sexual orientation or gender choice can now take parental leave without having to put forward a special motivation to the managers explaining themselves because they are now automatically eligible like any other new mother/parent. 

Having a progressive CEO helps

Donald says the policy is also in line with the 17 UN Sustainability Goals, which call for companies to do away with policies that perpetuate gender bias and stereotyping.

The JSE is a woman-led organisation, with a chairman and CEO who are both women, while 60 percent of the executive committee comprises of women. And Donald says JSE CEO Leila Fourie, who has been in the role since October 2019, played a key role in the introduction of the new policy, 

"She is a very progressive CEO who is helping us to think differently about these kinds of things. I am very fortunate to report to a people-centred CEO because that makes it much easier to drive initiatives of this sort," says Donald.