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Earlier this year, AstraZeneca Canada announced an expansion of their research footprint in Canada, including 500 new high-tech and scientific jobs.Provided

Soon after Dale Payne joined AstraZeneca Canada (AZ Canada) as senior manager of national policy and partnerships in September 2022, he learned that his wife was pregnant with their second child. To his delight, he was able to take a three-month paid parental leave when their daughter was born in June.

“Having that flexibility and being really encouraged by my leaders to take advantage of our benefits was a huge bonus for me,” he says, noting that company policy includes up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave for whomever is taking the time – mother, father or adoptive parent – and an additional week for the non-birth parent. “I also have a two-year-old son, and our growing family is important to me.”

“That time off,” continues Payne – whose job at the Mississauga-based, science-led biopharmaceutical firm includes working with governments and academia to advance health-systems transformation – “helped me to build a stronger connection with my family and my newborn. If I’d had to work, that would have been time that I couldn’t get back.”

Kiersten Combs, president of AZ Canada, notes that about 60 per cent of its 1,500 employees, who research, develop and market innovative medicines in areas such as breast, lung and prostate cancer; COVID-19; chronic kidney disease and rare diseases, are based in the GTA.

She says a big part of the organization’s 95-per-cent retention rate is an insistence on “top-tier” support for its workforce. “We place a lot of emphasis on our benefits program to ensure the comprehensive offering supports the health and well-being of our employees and their families.”

Another thing that galvanizes AZ Canada employees, Combs adds, is their collective drive for innovation. “It’s such an exciting time to be in life sciences, with advances revolutionizing medical treatment and ushering in a new era of medicine for patients with the aim of treating, preventing and, in the future, even curing complex illnesses like cancer and rare diseases.

“And you see this reflected in the growth we’re experiencing: earlier this year, we announced 500 high-tech and scientific jobs as part of the expansion of our R&D Hub in Mississauga and the creation of a new Alexion Development Hub for rare disease research.”

Payne feels that excitement. “At AZ Canada we’re really focused on advancing science,” he says, “but the overlying mission of the work we do is to make a positive impact on people, society around us and our planet. That really resonates for me.”

He also values AZ Canada’s “speak-up culture.” “I think it was my second day on the job,” he recalls, “and I was thrown into this big policy report project and was included in a meeting with one of our vice presidents. And right off the top of the meeting, it was like, ‘Hey, Dale, well, what were your impressions of this report and some of its recommendations?’

“That was new to me, because in my past work environment it was very much a top-down approach, where you were often not called upon for your thoughts or opinions unless you were a senior executive.”

That, says Payne, has fuelled his engagement at work – as have other aspects of AZ Canada’s support for employees, such as the flexibility of a hybrid schedule.

“With two young children at home,” he says, “it can be very hectic as we work around daycare drop-off and a lot of medical appointments. The company’s flexibility really helps me attain some balance between my work and life obligations, which is a huge benefit at this point in my life.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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