Tips for Managing Employees Taking Parental Leave

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With one in two women continuing to experience some form of pregnancy related discrimination, its evident that in Australia employees taking parental leave are managed poorly. So here are some of our top tips for employers supporting pregnant staff members and those returning to work.

1. Sponsorship:

Sponsorship while a team member is on parental leave can be one of the most instrumental ways in which we can break down the systemic biases that parental leavers experience: invisibility, lack of ambition, gender pay gap, and missed career opportunities. So as your team member heads off on parental leave, now is a perfect time to explore their professional vision from the perspective of what is next for them, so that you can be their advocate while they are on parental leave, ensuring not only that they don’t miss out, but that your workplace has the opportunity to leverage their talent.

2. Beware of benevolent bias:

We all have biases and blind spots, and some are directed inward towards ourselves as well as externally. But it’s important that you can recognise those bias’ and develop strategies for noticing and overcoming your own assumptions. Don’t assume you know what your employee wants for her career now that she’s expecting. Ask her about her professional vision, how she wants to manage family and career.

3. Manage your talent:

Businesses often make it so easy for their talented female staff to leave, especially if they focus solely on the “pregnancy” and “parental leave” aspects of the situation. But their real focus ought to be on how they are managing their talent. What is the employee’s professional vision? What do they want from their career? What are their success stories, their strengths?

4. Keep in touch:

Just because your employee is on leave, doesn’t mean they are not an employee anymore. Set up a keeping in touch plan, and diarise to connect with them. This shouldn’t just be six weeks before they are due back to work when you want to know if they are coming back!

5. Transition employees back to work:

Returning to work needs to be seen as a ‘transition’, with adjustments made to working terms so that parents and babies can adjust to the new world For example, at Allens, a top-tier law firm, they are doing away with billable targets for lawyers returning from parental leave. While in Australia parental leave is still largely the domain of

working mothers, dads can play a key role in supporting their partners to transition back to work too. Give your dads permission to parent and support through this period and watch their loyalty and productivity increase.

6. Flexibility:

Make flexibility work, and if it includes a part time arrangement, ensure that the role is properly restructured, not just five days crammed into three – nothing will lose your talent faster.

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