How to support staff returning from maternity or parental leave

Do you have an employee coming back to work after taking maternity or parental leave? If yes, they may be feeling a little bit anxious about what to expect when they return. To help make the process as stress-free as possible, here are a few things you can do to help support your staff.

  1. Keep in touch

One way to help ease any ‘back to work’ nerves is to keep in touch with your employee while they are on leave. If your employee is open to it, keeping a line of communication open can allow you to let them know of any big changes that may be happening. It can also enable you to invite them along to any social work events, training or annual planning days – which will keep them connected to the team and workplace.

Before your staff member goes on leave, sit down and have a chat about what would be the best way to keep in touch. They may prefer text messages, emails or a quick telephone call.

In addition, your staff member is also entitled to 10 keeping in touch days while they are on leave. These 10 days will help them to maintain their skills and transition back into work at the end of their leave.

For more information on the rules around the 10 keeping in touch days and how to best communicate with employees on maternity or parental leave, have a look at the keeping in touch with employees information on the Australian Government Supporting Working Parents website.

  1. Discuss any changes to your employees job

We all know that workplace priorities can change overnight and can transform employees’ day-to-day tasks. These changes however, can be unsettling to any employee coming back to work after many months of leave.

To ensure there are no surprises before your employee returns to work, invite them in for a catch up and go through your team member’s new priorities and any workplace policy or procedural changes that have taken place. It is also a great opportunity for them to meet any new staff they may be now working with and show them their new desk.

If there are significant changes to your employee’s job, make sure you check in with your HR team and the Fair Work Ombudsman to see what formal consultation you are required to undertake with your returning to work employee.

  1. Chat flexible work arrangements

When discussing any changes to your employee’s job, you could also take the opportunity to discuss options around flexible work arrangements.

Certain employees, including parents returning to work after taking parental leave, have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Sitting down and discussing each employee’s individual needs when returning to work will help you show your staff that you understand and recognise that as a new parent, they may need flexibility in their working hours. This can also help you to forward plan staffing arrangements and future rosters.

Flexible working arrangements could include working part-time instead of full-time, working from home or starting and finishing work at a different time.

For more information on flexible work arrangements for employees returning from parental leave visit the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Government Supporting Working Parents website.

  1. When your staff decide to take extra time off work

Some employees may decide that they would like to take a little bit of extra time off work after being on maternity or parental leave. If your employee is entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave, they can also request from you, an additional 12 months of unpaid leave. Any extension has to be taken straight after the original unpaid parental leave period, and will need to be requested in writing at least 4 weeks before their original leave ends. For more information on extending parental leave, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

If they do decide to leave their job completely, or you’d like to fill the position on a temporary basis while they’re on leave, the good news is there are jobactive providers in over 1700 locations across Australia who can help with recruitment at no cost to you, regardless of the industry you operate in.

jobactive providers can screen and shortlist job-ready candidates for you, provide you and your new employee with a tailored package of post-placement support and provide you with access to a wage subsidy up to $10,000 if you employ an eligible job seeker.

Find your local jobactive provider today.