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Parental leave has been a topic of discussion among Australian and international HR practitioners and for good reason. Facebook, Spotify and eBay have recently joined other large (mostly tech) corporations such as Netflix, Amazon and Adobe who have all introduced generous parental leave policies. You may feel that it’s easy for large corporations with practically limitless resources to implement these policies and you may be right. But you can still be part of the parental leave conversation.
RECRUITING & RETAINING TOP TALENT
(Paid) Parental Leave is not only beneficial to the employee but can significantly benefit the employer.
There are two primary factors why you should consider implementing a generous parental leave policy to improve your recruiting efforts, retention and workforce planning.
1. Shortage of talent is a continuing and prevalent issue in Australia and around the world. Having a generous parental leave policy could be the decisive factor in attracting the top talent you need and retaining essential talent you already have.
2. In the very near future most of the Baby Boomers will have retired and the majority of the workforce will comprise Millennials (Generation Y) who will be in the stage of their lives when they’re most likely to have children. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that “Millennials, globally, are more likely to say it is important to receive paid parental leave” according to a 2015 Ernst & Young study.
The workforce demographics are changing and there’s a scarcity of talent. Having a parental leave policy that’s desired by employees can be a decisive factor in the growth and survival of your organization.
CREATING A PARENTAL LEAVE POLICY
Providing a generous paid parental leave is one thing, but not everything. Transitioning into leave and later on back into work often derails leave-takers. Not just for the leave-takers but their direct colleagues might feel the extra pressure. These kind of issues can be avoided by planning ahead.
Joan C. Williams – Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California – outlined four elements of best practice when it comes to parental leave in a recent Harvard Business Review article.
USE THE THREE-MEETING MODEL FOR OFF-RAMPING
Shortly after the announcement the first meeting will occur. It is used to celebrate with the employee and reassure them. “Congratulations! It’s an exciting time, and you need not hesitate to take your full leave. We will develop a transition plan together.” Some pre-planning is done and the employee will be informed about what needs to be ready and done for the next meeting.
The schedule of the meetings can change depending on the situation. Joan says: “With biological children, there are months ahead to talk. If your leave-taker is an adoptive parent whose child could arrive at home with less notice, the next two meetings will be on an accelerated schedule.”
Around the three month mark before the leave is scheduled the second meeting occurs. During the second meeting the leave taker is instructed to create a list of projects they are working on, responsibilities they have and who they think might be suitable to transition them to when they go on leave. “If no one comes to mind, don’t worry. We can figure someone out or hire extra help. Your list will only be a beginning.” It’s after this meeting that the work for the supervisor starts. “After this meeting, the supervisor should develop a transition plan, talking with the people who will be picking up the leave-taker’s work or hiring temporary help if need be.” says Joan.
As leave approaches the third meeting occurs within a month of the due or adoption date. Tweaks are made where necessary and the transition begins. This is also a good time for the supervisor to check what the leave-takers’ current thoughts are post-leave and get an initial heads-up. Are they thinking of hitting the ground running or are they considering a part-time or flex schedule? Joan adds: “It’s important for legal reasons that the same question be asked of everyone, male or female.”
HAVE A PROTOCOL FOR ON-RAMPING
When leave has ended, a plan needs to be developed to ensure a smooth transition back into his or her position. “On the first day after the leave-taker returns, his or her supervisor should hold a meeting to discuss the plan, which should include check-ins during the ramp-up period to ensure that the returning employee is getting enough work, and appropriate work.” Says Joan.
Joan also emphasizes the legal risk involved in on-ramping “This is important: women returning from parental leave persistently report difficulties getting enough work, or enough good work. Colleagues’ reluctance to give them work may be benevolent (“With the baby, I knew it wasn’t a good time for her”) or hostile (“I need someone whose first priority is work, not home.”) This is gender stereotyping, and represents a legal risk if left unchecked.”
DESIGN A GRADUAL RETURN-TO-WORK
“Best practice is a gradual return-to-work policy” says Joan. “For example, providing all returning leave-takers with a 50% schedule that gradually builds back to full time.” Another advantage of having a policy is that departments or leave-takers with non-supportive supervisors will have less attrition as inflexible supervisors can do less damage.
DESIGNATE LEAVE LIAISONS
According to Joan, a cheap but effective solution is having a volunteer program that assigns leave-takers (both men and women) to mentors. “These mentors act as leave liaisons, answering questions about off- and on-ramping and, more generally, the transition to parenthood.”
On a final note, Joan tackles the harsh truth that parental leave is an inconvenience. Having to hire a replacement does cost money and it it’s not ideal. “Why encourage parental leave when-let’s be frank- it’s a damn nuisance when people take it?”
However, she argues that the bigger nuisance is losing valuable team members, over and over again, due to outdated policies.
Looking for a replacement or need help setting up a parental leave policy? Contact us today on 03 8617 8100 or email us and we’ll show you how we make things easier for you.