Swietelsky Rail Australia on challenging the status quo

Whether it’s focusing on family-first values, or prioritising diversity and inclusion in the workplace Swietelsky Rail Australia (SRA) is changing how their team experience their workplace within the rail industry.


Managing Director, Anne Modderno is focused on the growth of SRA inclusive of all facets – service growth, client growth, and most importantly individual employee growth.

“We’re very clear within our team that our people are the ones taking care of our business and delivering outcomes for our clients, so our business prioritises taking care of our people,” Anne said.

“It is our operational imperative to ensure that we are creating and maintaining a workplace that does more than put in place employee policies, but rather is building business plans that place the wellbeing of our team members at the centre.”

CHECK5 wellbeing and performance program

A key pillar of this shift in approach for the organisation was the introduction of the CHECK5 wellbeing and performance program in 2021.

The CHECK5 program supports employees by identifying a causal factor category, allowing individuals to “check in” across the main categories that can impact on wellbeing – money, relationships, physical health, mental health, and work.

“This type of employee wellbeing program expands on traditional practices and offers support to our team in an ongoing way, and in areas that are not just related to their role or workplace.”

“Everybody talks about wanting to be safe and go home at the end of the day. But for our team, it’s more than that,” Anne continued. “We want to ensure our team feels valued and respected, while also focusing on safe work practices.”

This program has resulted in over 25 per cent of employees having accessed at least one of the support networks available, all taking action to make constructive change.  Complimenting the CHECK 5 wellbeing and performance program is employee access to the highest standard in comprehensive EAP services providing support for employees and their families.

Values at the heart of the business

Underpinning this approach led to the team creating a new set of values earlier this year, where everyone - from management to those on the tools – had an equal voice to contribute and speak up about what they value individually, as a team and as part of the business.  This resulted in the entire business being on the same page about what we value, which resulted in the values of Family, Integrity, Respect and Excellence being identified and embedded into everything they do.

“We understand that working in the rail industry involves being away from home, and working long shifts in all kinds of locations. This can create stress on family life which reinforces how important it is to find the balance between being away and home; and creating the safe work environment that allows our staff to be 100 per cent present in their home life when away from work,” Anne said.

“What sets us apart from traditional rail industry roles is our transparent focus on family. Our core value of family means family first – always. Swietelsky family, second - always. We encourage and support each other, and we keep ourselves and our families safe,” Anne said.

Certified Family Inclusive Workplace

SRA doesn’t just talk the talk on their family values. They’re a certified Family Inclusive Workplace by Family Friendly Workplaces Australia. They have joined over 115 workplaces striving to reduce tension between work and family and help employees thrive both at home, and in the workplace. Being a certified Family Inclusive Workplace means that SRA policies and procedures have been assessed as exceeding the minimum national standards as well as comparing favourably to other employers.

Some of the employee benefits SRA have introduced include access to an additional five days of leave per year, known internally as a ‘Balance Break’. 

These additional days are available to all staff to restore the balance between work and life as it fluctuates throughout the year. The break could be anything from a mini getaway with the family, some alone time on the golf course, minding the kids to give their partner some time, or a mid-week romantic getaway.

In addition to the Balance Break, they also offer additional Long Service Leave entitlements. The SRA team provide an additional accumulated day per year for all staff during their sixth to tenth year of working with SRA, to create an extra week for their long service leave when it becomes accessible.

SRA also provides 12 weeks paid parental leave for all parents regardless of their primary or secondary carer status. Importantly for a male dominated workforce, SRA allows this leave to be taken flexibly, up to three years after baby joins the family.

For example, fathers may choose to use a significant portion of their 12 weeks parental leave by transitioning to a four-day week for a year to provide one day of care for their child as they approach preschool age. This saves the family the cost of one day childcare a week and could support their partner transitioning back to work.

“The research tells us that this flexibility provides the best foundation for mothers to transition back to the workforce,” Anne continued. “SRA allows access to paid parental leave from the first day of employment, and cover superannuation on all paid and unpaid parental leave.”

SRA policy is inclusive of all family types such as single parents, same sex families, foster families, adoption or surrogacy, and also provides staff access to leave in event of still birth and early pregnancy loss. The organisation also acknowledges the role grandparents play in the family unit and provide access to five days paid grandparental leave per grandchild.

“In today’s world, access to genuine carers leave for unwell family members is needed more than ever. Our Family Care and Carer’s policy recognises this and aims to provide the flexibility our staff need. It also provides allowances for First Nations and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ kinship care needs.”

SRA is an outcome driven business and offers its team flexible working arrangements, as well as proactively supports hybrid working arrangements. Access to flexible hours allow staff to prioritise their family first so that they can be their best self at work.

“We acknowledge that the work design for each role may sometimes restrict the level or type of flexibility that can be offered. We challenge ourselves to think outside the square where possible to ensure our flexible framework can be utilised by all our employees to the extent that they can still successfully complete the work of their role.” Anne said.

Examples include access to modified shift times to cover school drop off/pick up, a mix of from home and office work, flexibility to manage hours so that staff can care for relatives and attend or support others to attend medical appointments.

Safety at work and at home

SRA’s Domestic and Family Violence/Families in Crisis policy further demonstrates their commitment to the safety of all employees. The policy includes access to an additional five days leave above the minimum national standard, steps for protection, and protocols and support for alleged or self-reported perpetrators.

“At SRA we aim to provide a workplace environment for our staff that is unique to the industry and align with our values. We hope that our Family Friendly Workplace accreditation showcases to our staff and potential future talent that we’re more than just a workplace, and we live and breathe our values,” Anne said.

What matters to our team, matters to us

Director Technical and Risk, Gary Holden said that alongside the direct employee focus, they are also committed to their ongoing Environmental, Social and Government (ESG) improvements.

“Whilst there are always legislative ESG requirements, we use this as a baseline, as opposed to the only goals,” Gary said. “We also know that this commitment is important to many in our team, as it shows that we’re not just focused on the success of the company, but also on how we contribute to a wider sense.”

The SRA ESG program is reviewed and tracked across four key areas of fairness, innovation, ecology, and interaction. Some improvements of note include:

  • 100 per cent recycling of all oils, oil filters, rags, scrap metal and batteries
  • 78 per cent reduction in use of aerosols across all operations
  • 33 per cent First Nations People representation in Senior Leadership Team
  • 14 per cent female representation across the workforce (increased from 9 per cent at the start of the year)

In addition to corporate level support provided to local community groups and organisations, SRA proactively encourages staff to participate in activities that benefit our local community and charities. SRA offer their employees one day paid leave per year to volunteer for a chosen charity or community initiative that provides positive social outcomes.

Focusing on interaction and employee growth and development, this year, SRA have chosen to invest in the development of a training and competency framework that is tailored specifically to the needs of their team and business operations.

Although implementation will be early next year, it hasn’t stopped other employee growth and professional development occurring in the meantime. Currently, 45 per cent of staff are undertaking further study in professional development courses such as project management, leadership, and business, and eight active trade apprentices or trainees currently work within the business.

Specifically focusing on fairness and reconciliation, this year SRA started their reconciliation action plan journey in a proactive way. Consistent with their focus on quality outcomes, SRA have started their journey by first focusing on understanding their connection to country through indigenous art.

In September 2023 their team held a connection to country art workshop with local indigenous artist, Saretta Fielding. Staff were educated on meanings of Indigenous art and storylines, and all painted their own stories using the symbols they learnt about.

Saretta then led a discussion about SRA’s values, business operations and their connection, to inspire her to develop a bespoke SRA artwork that represents their culture, story and connection to the land they work within. SRA will continue to work with Saretta to create their own artwork, and then to discover and develop their reconciliation path and action plan.  

If you’re interested in a career with SRA, please check out our current vacancies