Getting to grips with best practice parental leave

Wednesday May 15, 2019

You’ve signed the card and waved an employee off into parenthood. But what happens next? Perhaps you haven’t thought that far ahead yet, especially if the employee is taking the full allowance of parental leave which can be up to two years.

However, saying “See you later!” with no further plans for communication during an employee’s parental leave can actually be detrimental and risky for your business.

Pregnancy, family and carer responsibilities are protected attributes and are legally protected from discrimination at work. Yet pregnancy discrimination still happens. Studies show that as many as 49% of Australian mothers and 27% of fathers and partners have experienced discrimination at work related to pregnancy or parental leave.

The importance of best practice

Whilst at first it might seem like you are not going to see the absent employee for quite some time, we recommend that you have a best practice parental leave policy in place. This can not only improve retention rates by increasing the chances of talented employees returning to work for you. But can also make sure that you avoid any nasty Fair Work claims for discrimination.

How to implement best practice parental leave

Let’s take a look at what you should be doing before, during and after the parental leave is taken.

Before an employee begins parental leave

Preparation is everything. It is a good idea to have a policy in place before an employee informs you that they are expecting. That way you can save time and refer to your policy when the moment comes.

Prior to drafting your policy, you may wish to consult your employees and their representatives to discuss their unique needs regarding parental leave. When it comes to the final draft, expert help is recommended to ensure that you remain legally compliant and follow best practice.

During parental leave

Communication is key. Keeping in touch with employees who are out on parental leave is a great way to promote inclusivity and is an important part of any best practice parental leave policy.  There are many ways in which to achieve this, such as pre-arranged catch-ups and invites to work socials.

Returning to work

An employee returning from parental leave is legally entitled to return to the same job. If you have made changes to your workforce and that job no longer exists, you are legally obliged to offer them a position for which they are qualified and suitable. Keep in mind that it will need to be near in status and pay to the position that they had prior to parental leave.

You may also want to consider reasonable adjustments for an employee returning to work. For example, flexible working can help employee work-life balance and even improve efficiencies.

Additional support

Parental leave is a broad term which covers several types of complementary entitlements. The process can be complex and costly if mistakes are made. If you would like professional advice regarding your own parental leave policy and want to know if you are following best practice, contact your local HR Dept.

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