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Let’s Talk: Parental Leave

Parental Leave policy is something all businesses need to consider. While there are legal requirements for organisations to adhere to, there are extra steps that can be taken to separate one business from another and assist those taking care of children. However, these steps may come at a cost to the business.

In today’s Let’s Talk topic, we hear from industry leaders on what they think Parental Leave should look like, and what business owners need to think about when forming policy.

Monica Watt, Chief Human Resources Officer, ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll

If there’s any time in an employee’s life when they need some extra support and compassion from their employer it’s when they are welcoming a new addition to the family.    

Parental leave, like any corporate policy, can either be viewed by organisations as a box to tick or as a way to separate themselves from the crowd.

Organisations that take the minimum legal requirements for leave entitlements and build upon them are the ones that will be able to attract the best talent as they are the ones that respect the whole of an employee’s life.

Whether it’s expanding the duration of paternity leave, making parental leave available to adoptive parents or recognising that parenting doesn’t stop after the first 12 months, there’s a huge array of ways that employers can make their policies stand out.

Ben Leeds, Country Manager, Perkbox Australia

When we talk about parental leave in the workplace, we often focus on what companies can do to push the dial and encourage both diversity, workforce participation and flexibility. There’s plenty that’s been done already. Many offer extended parental leave for mothers and fathers, and surely this year has driven home the ability to work flexibly. Each company creates policies that fit their workplace, and some professions are more suited to flexible work and extended leave than others.

However, this is a societal issue and should be addressed by the government. In the UK, parents are entitled to 570 hours of free childcare for 3 year olds and 4 year olds each year. This is on top of tax breaks for childcare for working families. There’s calls for this to be extended further, but surely this could be a baseline Australia could aspire towards. It’s not an outrageous idea. The government has already dabbled with free childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ed Mallett, Managing Director, Employsure

For a business to provide better leave opportunities for expecting parents, ideally it would initially offer paid parental leave. Given the current economic climate, this is not always an option. However, an employer can take steps to make sure the training and expertise vested in an employee prior to taking leave is not wasted, by making it attractive to return to work and enabling employees to hit the ground running when they do.

‘Keeping in touch days’ allow employees to refresh their skills while still on parental leave, without losing their government entitlement to parental leave pay. An employee gets 10 paid days a year to use for training, participating in business planning, or to attend a conference. The employee can also use them to gauge how returning to work will look in practice. These days allow employees to stay connected with the business and keep their skills up to date, so when they return to work, they can do so more easily.

Gordana Redzovski, Vice President, APAC, Vend

As a business, it’s important to demonstrate that what’s important to your staff is important to you. For the majority of us, nothing is more important than family. Gone are the days of having to choose between a career and a family, which is why, at Vend, we’re creating an environment in which pre, during and post-pregnancy we’re there to support our employees, however we can. Ultimately, nothing comes before family – indeed, we’ve hired some of our most senior leaders in the middle of their pregnancy. In the midst of a major personal life change, supporting them can have positive impacts on staff retention, morale and culture. So, ‘doing better’ doesn’t require the longest leave or the boldest policy, but simply creating a culture in which your business supports your team, however they need you, in what is the most important time of their life.

Alicia Edge, Co-founder, Compeat Nutrition

I left a large institution because it wasn’t conducive to a young family (long hours, inconsistent work days and not daycare-friendly). The experience gave me time to envision something different.  Our model has enabled our dietitians to return to work sooner and stay at home longer with their babies. With a decentralised model of delivery, the removal of set consult times has allowed for a service delivery that fits into the life of the client – but also the chaotic days as a new parent. Sleep scheduling is never a guarantee, so any work needs to be understanding of that. You want a solution to deliver a new value that also better suits real life of a parent who also happens to love her job.

Valeria Ignatieva, Co-Founder and CEO, WORK180

The data is clear: the current legal parental leave allowance is not enough to truly support, nurture and, ultimately, retain a company’s workforce. On the other hand, offering employees a great parental leave policy helps attract, nurture, and retain talented team members, which translates to savings and profits that far outweigh the costs of the policies themselves. So in short, those businesses offering the bare minimum can and should be doing more.

Best practice parental leave offers flexible, diverse, and gender-neutral policies that benefit both the employee and the business. At a minimum, this includes extended paid parental leave for both primary and secondary carers (choosing this inclusive terminology over ‘mother’ and ‘father’) as well as financial contributions to ensure they continue to receive their full wage. And to attract the top candidates to their company, many of the trailblazing employers we work with are already implementing next practice policies.

Angus Dorney, co-CEO, Kablamo

When people are hired for their talent—not their family situation—businesses thrive. We have a zero-hour contract arrangement with our star business development manager, Clare. Her wealth of experience meant we couldn’t not have her on the team, however she needs to be available for her family at a moment’s notice. Clare’s daughter was born with a rare condition that required an immediate liver transplant. Though now 5 years-old she still has regular doctors visits and her immune-suppression requires careful attention. While zero-hour contracts have rightly been scrutinised and fairly criticised, in some situations they may also represent a path to empowerment. It’s an option more companies should be considering.


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Ellie Dudley
Ellie Dudley is a journalist at Dynamic Business with a background in the startup space and current affairs reporting. She has a specific interest in foreign investment and the Australian economy.
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