With 1 in 2 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.
- Good Governance: Clearly articulate the policy, rights and responsibilities of managers and employees around managing parental leave, keeping in touch and discriminating against working parents. Good governance also ought to include checks and balances to ensure employees on parental leave are not forgotten, made redundant or terminated for the wrong reasons, thereby unnecessarily exposing the business to litigation risks, and loss of talent.
- Manage bias: Equip your staff with the right tools to adjust their biases – ask them to reflect on their own circumstances, and consciously acknowledge that the decisions they made around career and care for their family, are decisions that are personal only to them.
- 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?
- 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 6 weeks before they are due back to work when you want to know if they are coming back!
- 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. And, this is not just for the mothers of the babies recently born. 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. So give your dads permission to parent and support through this period, and watch their loyalty and productivity increase.
- Flexibility – Make flexibility work, and if it includes a part time arrangement, ensure that the role is properly restructured, not just 5 days crammed into 3 – nothing will lose your talent faster.