The Summer 2019/20 edition of AMMA’s Resource People magazine is out now. Read the magazine in full online and/or download a PDF copy here.
Highlighting the wonderful achievements, initiatives and people of the resources and energy industry, Resource People ensures AMMA members are up-to-date on the latest developments in all ‘people’ areas of the sector.
In forthcoming installments of the AMMA News Update, we will feature a key story from the Summer 2019/20 edition.
SUPER LEAVE STRIKES GOLD FOR EMPLOYEES
Newmont Goldcorp, one of the top global gold producers, recently implemented a leading paid parental leave policy whilst looking to the future on automated haulage.
IMPLEMENTING an industry-leading paid parental leave (PPL) policy has not only seen Newmont Goldcorp set a high benchmark for other resources and energy employers, it’s also challenged the miner to think outside the square from an operational perspective.
The company’s PPL was first introduced to its wholly owned and operated sites in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM) employees the latest to be eligible for the attractive leave entitlements.
In addition to the mandatory statutory entitlements to unpaid leave, eligible employees can now take 22 weeks paid parental/adoption leave plus access a four weeks Return to Work Payment as a retention tool.
KCGM, better known as the Superpit, is Newmont Goldcorp’s joint venture with Saracen Minerals (editor’s note: since RP was published Northern Star Resources has agreed to terms with Newmont to purchase its stake in the KCGM Superpit).
The famous Kalgoorlie site had about 200 employees taking secondary carer’s leave over the past year.
Amanda Baker, Human Resources Manager, for Newmont Boddington and KCGM, predicts this figure to increase with the fresh offering.
“While we may need to offer some fixed term and casual contracts to cover people on parental leave, it also opens up opportunities to develop and build existing people capacity and transferable skills within our operations.’
While more people may take advantage of this leave, it’s hoped the potential break in their employment will be outweighed by long-term gains.
“We don’t see them as a loss as we know we’ll get more out of our people when they’ve had adequate rest and less pressure to return, as well as the flexibility they deserve when they first return to work,” Ms Baker said.
A key metric for tracking success is retention – especially over periods of tighter labour markets – and while it’s too early to mark the policy’s success, Ms Baker is looking forward to assessing its positive impact.
“The impact of this policy on retention is something we’re tracking fairly extensively to make sure we’ve made the right investment,” she said.
“We will continue to engage with our employees, particularly those on parental leave, to understand the impact the changes in our policy have on their engagement with the company. We expect engagement and retention to continue to improve as a result of these changes.”
The policy reflected changing demographics and demands for flexibility, but Ms Baker also conceded “different things motivate different people”.
“We need to remember many people are at different stages of their lives, but I certainly think the development of people is a strong retention tool for all employees,” she said.
“Investing in employees development and making them feel valued is a priority, whether that be through personal development or new skills, stretch assignments, cross-functional schemes or things such as overseas assignments and projects.
“What we’re trying to do as a business, is show them that’s there’s many different pathways to get what you want at the pace you need. In the situation of balancing work and family, this extended PPL can accommodate changing personal needs and facilitate a return to work – which benefits the employee and the company by retaining the right talent in our business.”
“It’s a great policy but it’s a very small part of what we’re trying to do as a whole business to develop and retain talent.”
“Developing our people and reviewing talent succession for key roles is something that is talked about very regularly and it actually comes to life – it’s not on a piece of paper that gets checked off each year.”
What does the policy mean?
The intent of the policy is for employees to return to work and to also address the gaps in superannuation and long service leave that employees encounter on these breaks.
“Of note is how a gap in employment due to parental leave adds to the gender pay gap for many women,” Ms Baker said.
“With our policy provision to pay accrued superannuation after returning from leave, we hope to directly impact one of those contributing factors.”
The policy supports shared parental responsibility, regardless of gender or marital status, offering the secondary carer to become the primary carer within six months if the other parent returns to work.
“Other features include flexibility to the work schedule when returning to work, along with a communication support process that keeps contact with our people whilst they are on this exciting journey,” Ms Baker said.
“Another aim is to cement the family bond with the community and remove the stigma of traditional care for children.”
Newmont Goldcorp has seen positive responses from the workforce since rolling this policy out in January and KCGM’s mid-year implementation followed finalisation of its enterprise bargaining agreement, which reflected considerable increase in benefits from the previous agreement including this new leave provision.
’For a residential site like KCGM, where both partners may work for us, they can both get an opportunity to take primary and secondary carer leave up to the total 26 week benefit’.
“Feedback from men in particular has been extremely positive.”
Ms Baker said the response from male employees suggested some would have never thought about staying at home to care for the new child until this policy was released.
“As a leadership team in a residential operating environment, we encourage work/life balance,” she said.
“We fully support this policy for our people not only as a retention tool, but also as a way to attract workers.
“Reducing our turnover has been a considerable focus in the last 12 months and it is policies like these that help reduce turnover.
“Newmont Goldcorp is not the only employer who has changed to a more progressive policy and we are happy to continue as one of the industry leaders in identifying ways to support gender equality and a more modern look at benefits that directly impact the lives of our employees.”
Innovation opportunities prolong mine life, employment
One of the priorities of the company is to grow and sustain operations – and in turn provide employees long-term career opportunities.
Automation will likely play an integral role in assessing the opportunities to extend mine life and lift community confidence about the company’s desire for the future.
Newmont Goldcorp is well advanced in a study to introduce autonomous haulage system (AHS) at the Boddington gold-copper mine, with the potential for 39 trucks being remotely operated, rather than having a driver on board.
Ms Baker said the study is an opportunity to potentially improve safety and extend mine life.
In Boddington and surrounds, from which around 25% of the gold mine workforce come from, the company’s focus has been on engaging with the community following the November 2018 decision to kick-off a feasibility study on whether or not autonomous haulage could work in the pit.
Autonomous haulage is already common on many other mine sites in Australia. Newmont Goldcorp expects the outcomes of the study to be known later this year.
“Communication with our people and our external stakeholders has been ongoing since last December to be transparent about the study and to ensure that all of our stakeholder were informed by us and could address any questions directly to us,” Ms Baker said.
“In line with our stakeholder engagement plan, the communication process included all of our main community relationships, regulators and, most importantly, our workforce.
“Interestingly, while the community had questions and some concerns about potential labour and community impacts, we also received some supportive feedback.
“Boddington and the surrounding district are predominantly farms, and farmers are pragmatic people who themselves have a long track-record of applying technology and innovation as part of their farming practice, so they understand where we are coming from when we talk about the potential safety and sustainability benefits that are driving our interest in AHS.
“The two-year implementation timeframe also provides enough lead-time to allow us to work with our stakeholders to offset any impacts and make sure that any opportunities arising from AHS are realised.
“The economic implications of AHS will no doubt have a positive impact on our life of mine, thereby extending our presence and support for the community and the South-West region,” Ms Baker said.
Potential changes to the workforce composition if we receive the approval to move forward with the project have been openly explained.
“There was a raft of emotions expressed at that time which included anger, fear, and excitement.
Workforce feedback sessions relating to the potential for haul truck driver job losses, real estate prices and people that are trying to gain an understanding for how their job might change in the future.
“I personally found it incredibly successful in talking with our people about what the possibilities for their future skills and what attributes we would be looking for to remain in the go-forward team.
“It is recognised that the only way this project will be fully successful is through the way that we manage any potential future change.
During a visit to Arizona in May his year, Ms Baker had the opportunity to see the autonomous trucks in action first-hand.
“Having operated a truck previously, I appreciate that it really is a good thing to get people out of the cabs and in a more controlled environment to manage our mining process,” she said.
“Through this visit, I realised that what we were embarking on is a people change piece, not so much a technology change. This technology has been around for a long time now and has been proven to bring great gains in safety and productivity; our opportunity is really to show the site that if this study goes through it is better business for all of us.
“We hope that our people want to be a part of the go-forward option if autonomous is approved.”
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