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Supporting people in natural disasters: Westpac

Find out how Westpac supported customers and workers affected by a natural disaster.     

  • Westpac assisted customers affected by floods in Queensland and New South Wales. However, it recognised the crisis was also a very difficult time for workers, many of whom were affected by the floods too.  
  • Westpac focused on workers’ needs and provided flexible assistance so workers could respond to the changing situation.  
  • Employers can make a significant positive impact during an unexpected event or crisis.  

Westpac has a long history of helping communities respond, rebuild and recover from natural disasters. Its Disaster Relief Packages are available for customers affected by natural disasters, such as floods and bushfires.  

But natural disasters don’t just affect customers; they affect staff too. Westpac took a people-centred approach to helping workers affected by floods in Queensland and New South Wales.  

“We focused on the wellbeing of our people who were impacted, ensuring they had the support they needed during a really uncertain time for them and their families. We focused on understanding their practical needs during the crisis, and then evolving our response as the situation got better or worse,” said the Westpac program manager.

Westpac provides a range of supports for workers and managers: 

  • Workers affected by significant unanticipated events receive tailored support to focus on their own circumstances and wellbeing.  
  • Workers can access special paid leave, which is separate from their annual, sick or carers leave. People leaders are authorised to approve special leave quickly, so those affected by natural disasters can deal with their immediate situation.  
  • Workers can receive a one-off grant up to $5,000 to help pay for immediate relief such as temporary accommodation.  
  • An internal network of employee care consultants provides one-on-one help for a worker and their leader. Consults help to organise the right support for the worker, and talk to their leader about work arrangements, leave arrangements and financial assistance. Consultants may also connect the worker with a psychologist.   
  • For the recent floods, Westpac’s in-house psychologists delivered wellbeing sessions for leaders to help them manage people going through traumatic events.  
  • Westpac’s Employee Assistant Program (EAP) also provides free support, coaching and counselling services to all workers, family and friends, and contractors.  
  • Westpac’s mobile ‘Bank in a Box’ provides banking services to affected areas so people can access funds.    

Westpac identified some lessons for others: 

  • Recognise people are in real danger in a natural disaster. It is likely people cannot keep working, which can have a prolonged impact on their lives and their financial security.  
  • Minimise stress. Help in a crisis must be practical and responsive to immediate needs. Do what you can to minimise people’s work and financial stress, and give them space to deal with whatever is going on.  
  • Teach leaders how to manage in the ‘crisis moment’. Many people leaders avoid tough conversations or uncomfortable situations. Leader-focused training helped people leaders to be confident and supported to say to people in crisis. 
  • Offer refresher sessions. A standard health and safety refresher for all workers, not just leaders, every 12 months can be valuable. 
  • Remember, not all natural disasters are the same. It is always important to get feedback and tailor the response. At the same time, a standardised approach that can be easily scaled may be necessary for a large-scale event.  
  • Financial and Insurance Services
  • All locations
  • Published 15 Dec 2022
  • Updated 25 Jul 2023