Supporting pregnant employees, employees on parental leave and working parents has many benefits for business—for starters, it can help you improve staff retention rates, attract new talent, improve business productivity, and foster a positive organisational culture. However, the reality is that many employers are unsure of how to best support parents in their workplace, or are unclear on their obligations.
How can you best support parents in your workplace and reap the benefits for your business? The good news is that there are resources to help make it easier for you, from navigating workplace laws to learning from Australia’s leading businesses.
Parents make up a large part of the workforce
There are almost 4 million Australians who have unpaid caring responsibilities and most of these people care for children. Put another way, that’s nearly two in five (38.2 per cent) employees. Chances are your business employs one or more working parents.
You may even be a parent yourself—and can relate to the challenges families face in meeting the daily demands of juggling work and family. This balancing act is a constant challenge for many parents, who unfortunately can often feel discriminated against (unintentionally or otherwise) at work.
Parents report widespread discrimination at work
The Australian Human Rights Commission recently undertook a National Review looking at the experience of discrimination among pregnant women and parents returning to work. The National Review found 49 per cent of mothers and 27 per cent of fathers reported experiencing workplace discrimination. There was a significant gap between the law and what was actually happening in practice.
Know your legal obligations
The National Review also found that ending this kind of discrimination had to start with ensuring employers and employees understood their legal obligations and entitlements. Many employers felt they were in the dark about how to handle pregnancy, parental leave and return to work.
To bridge the gap the Australian Government, in consultation with business, developed a new website and set of resources that is easy to use and informative for both employers and employees. The Supporting Working Parents website and resources act as a one-stop-shop with information on anti-discrimination, workplace relations and work health and safety laws. The resources are tailored to the needs of employers and employees, including a quick guide for small businesses.
For instance, you can use the website to find out:
- what to do if an employee informs you that she is pregnant
- what you need to know in regard to work health and safety
- how to make sure you meet your obligations under anti-discrimination and workplace laws
- information on parental leave, including what the entitlements are under the Fair Work Act 2009
- what you need to do and know when your employee returns to work, including information on flexible working arrangements and breastfeeding.
Learn from other employers and move to leading practices—it’s good business sense
Many of Australia’s leading employers have recognised that finding solutions to accommodate working parents can improve the bottom line, boost morale, retain talent and help employers avoid tricky legal situations. And these benefits are not just limited to big employers.
Research shows that flexible working arrangements can increase efficiency and outputs for businesses of all sizes.
To further help businesses tap into the benefits of supporting working parents, the Government recently launched the Successful Strategies to Support Working Parents: A Guide for Employers, which details ‘leading practices’, including some specific examples from big employers like ANZ and Telstra.
These well-known organisations have successfully implemented strategies that go beyond minimum legal requirements, many of which are low cost, effective and easy to deliver for businesses of all sizes. These include an open approach to flexible working arrangements and consistent communication.
You can use the guide to learn from these tried and tested strategies and gain ideas on how to apply them to your own businesses—the guide includes specific tips for smaller organisations, covering things like flexibility and open conversations. The guide sets out how to:
- establish strong foundations
- support pregnant employees and employees planning to take parental leave
- value employees on parental leave
- enable a successful return to work and support for working parents.
To find out how you can make a difference to Aussie families and enhance your business, go to the Supporting Working Parents website.
If you are looking to hire someone new, find out how jobactive can help. jobactive can help connect you with job-ready candidates to fit the needs of your business, including parents returning to the workforce.