The Telstra family just got bigger with the partners of gay and lesbian employees now eligible for equal benefits under the company’s new diversity policy.
Telstra also weighed into the national equality debate by offering to make good any losses suffered by same-sex partners where Telstra policies could not overcome discrimination in legislation.
A company-wide memo to 45,000 employees this week made clear that same-sex partners would now receive the same entitlements as their heterosexual counterparts, adopting the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s definition of de facto partner.
An audit by the company’s newly formed Diversity Council had found 171 instances of unequal or unclear policy that excluded same-sex partners.
We suspect gay and lesbian staff wouldn’t have felt comfortable escalating complaints [of unequal entitlements] because the company didn’t appear to have an inclusive policy, Telstra news services director Andrew Maiden said.
Now there can be no doubt the company will pay for same-sex partners to accompany Telstra employees when they move house for business reasons. It will make a practical difference right now.
The new policies will cover same-sex partners when excluded in legislation such as the Federal Government’s ComCare protections for injured workers.
For instance, our policies now expressly recognise entitlements of an employee’s partner to compassionate leave, parental leave and carer’s leave, Maiden said.
The company has offered support to same-sex couples to make other legal arrangements in those instances of government discrimination.
This is the personal initiative of [CEO] Sol Trujillo, Maiden said. He feels very personally attached to this cause; he himself as a Hispanic man suffered from a lot of discrimination in the western US business community.
By sending this kind of an email to 45,000 staff he’s changing the culture of the organisation, and the feedback is pretty strongly in favour.
The move also was also praised Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes.
This is an excellent example of a major Australian company behaving as a good corporate citizen should, and providing economic justice for gay and lesbian couples. I urge the Australian Government to follow this example, Innes said.

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