Parental leave is a critical time for your employees as they embark on the journey of welcoming a new addition to their family. It is essential therefore that you and your business create inclusive environments that support all individuals, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, in their decision to take parental leave. By offering comprehensive support and implementing inclusive policies, you can not only foster a positive work culture but also promote employee well-being and retention.
It's worth noting that shared parental leave, which came into force in 2014/2015, has been increasingly discussed recently. Personnel Today’s definition explains that “Shared parental leave and pay allows eligible women to curtail their right to maternity leave to enable their partner to take shared parental leave. Eligible parents can share 50 weeks’ leave and 37 weeks’ pay. Similar rules apply for adoptive parents.”
Here are my top tips to help you get prepared, so that when your employee requests parental leave, you know exactly what to do:
1. Preparing for Parental Leave
It is essential your business plays a crucial part in supporting your employees before they go on parental leave. It’s all in the planning. There’s a lot you can do now, even if you don’t currently have anyone planning parental leave.
a) Have a clear policy, and include it in your employee handbook
b) Create a package of resources for your employees – this could include details of independent organisations or charities who could help them, including what resources your business has available to them
c) Plan as early as possible; this ensures your business has a continuity plan in place. For example what effect will your employee being off have on your business? Will you need to get a temporary member of staff in, or do current employees have the capacity to take on some or all the roles?
Ultimately, by being prepared, this means you get a smooth transition. Don’t just think about the lead up and time during which your employee is off. You need a plan for when they come back, which I talk more about below.
2. Effective communication
Keeping the communication channels open during parental leave is crucial for employees to stay connected with their teams and remain informed about work developments. You can support this by establishing clear communication channels and designating a point of contact for any queries or updates. Regular check-ins, newsletters, and access to virtual platforms can help your employees feel connected and reduce any feelings of isolation. But don’t over do the communication, as they will also be coming to terms with changes in their personal lives. Ask the employee before they take the leave how they would prefer to stay in touch during their time off.
3. Facilitating the return to work
The return to work can be challenging for individuals after parental leave. To facilitate a smooth transition you could offer flexible work arrangements, such as part-time or remote options. Providing discrete designated spaces for breastfeeding or pumping milk, also demonstrates a commitment to supporting your employees' needs. Implementing workshops or mentoring programs for returning parents can help in addressing concerns and building confidence.
4. Inclusivity and diversity
It is essential for you to recognise and support the diverse needs of your employees, which includes same-sex couples, and individuals on adoption leave. Ensuring your policies acknowledge, and accommodate these situations helps foster an inclusive work environment. Emphasising inclusivity not only benefits your employees but also positively impacts on your reputation and ability to attract and retain top talent.
5. Retention and benefits
Supporting your employees during parental leave, and their return to work has proven benefits for both employees and employers. Studies have shown that companies with comprehensive parental leave policies experience higher employee satisfaction, increased loyalty, and reduced turnover rates. Investing in a supportive work environment not only promotes a positive corporate culture but also strengthens the overall performance and productivity of your business.
In the Fertility Family’s 2022 Parental Leave Study:
3 in 5 (57%) employees think their company's maternity/paternity leave policy and attitude to new parents is inadequate
1 in 10 employees (9%) felt that management restricted their career progression after they took parental leave — this was experienced equally by both men and women
1 in 6 felt that management reduced their career opportunities after communicating that they planned to take parental leave
In employees who thought their career opportunities were reduced, 66% felt their opportunities were restricted prior to taking parental leave, rather than afterwards — potentially missing out on a promotion, project lead or business trips, or being overlooked for open positions.
It’s great for recruitment too! Actively promoting that you have a parental leave policy and structure in place is something that looks great in your recruitment adverts. You are showing your potential star employees that you care about them, and so, if they come to work for you, they will hopefully care about you too.
Research carried out by Vodaphone discovered that:
More than a third (37%) of all people surveyed, and more than half (55%) of 18–34-year-olds, would be more likely to apply for a job if they knew the employer had good parental leave policies.
More than one-in-10 of all people surveyed (12%), and one-in-four 18–34-year-olds (25%), have decided not to apply for a job because they thought the employer’s parental leave policies were inadequate.
More than half (52%) of all people surveyed, and two-thirds (64%) of those aged 18-34, agree that parental leave policies were a useful indication of whether an organisation is a good employer, even if they are not planning to have a baby themselves.
Around one-in-10 people (9%) have turned down a job offer because they thought the employer’s parental leave policies were inadequate. This doubles to more than one-in-five (21%) 18–34-year-olds whether an organisation is a good employer, even if they are not planning to have a baby themselves.
You and your business have a significant role to play in supporting individuals during parental leave, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation. By implementing inclusive policies, fostering effective communication, and providing appropriate resources, you can create a supportive environment for all your employees.
Supporting individuals during this critical phase of their lives not only promotes employee well-being but also contributes to higher retention rates and a positive workplace culture. It is through such efforts that you can demonstrate your commitment to your employees' holistic growth, and establish yourself as employers of choice.
Remember: creating an inclusive workplace is an ongoing process that requires continuous evaluation and improvement. By having policies and support for parental leave in place, you can make a lasting impact on your employees' lives and set a positive example for others to follow.