Be a frontrunner in parental leave conditions

by Elizabeth Barnard19 Jun 2012

New research has revealed the strategies of organisations which provide flexible working conditions and have paid parental leave policies in place – and the impressive return on investment is turning heads.

In a survey on paid parental leave and return to work provisions undertaken by the Diversity Council of Australia of its members, it was found that 91% of organisations had a policy to provide paid parental leave and 96% offered part-time/reduced hours – and as a result their average return to work rate was well above average at 89%.

Progressive employers recognise the benefits to productivity of offering paid parental leave and provision of flexible working conditions, Nareen Young from DCA said. “These employers know paid parental leave and flexible work conditions help attract and retain talented employees, especially women, and protect the significant investments they make in training and developing employees. Family-friendly practices in workplaces are crucial to reducing staff turnover and cutting the cost of having to replace experienced employees,” she said.

Some employers are quite innovative in their approaches such as continuing to pay superannuation while their employees are on unpaid parental leave, or making sure they remain eligible for salary reviews whilst on leave. Several employers surveyed allow employee couples to share the one paid parental leave period or allow each to take their own paid parental leave period, provided it isn’t taken concurrently. Several others allowed the parental leave periods to overlap. “This reflects the realities of parenting today where parents often swap the primary carer role at different times,” Young said.

Some of the more generous and innovative policies adopted by employers included:

  • The most generous paid parental leave was up to 52 weeks paid leave: 12 weeks leave provided at full pay and up to 40 weeks paid at 0.60 of salary for the primary carer.
  • 10% made employer superannuation contributions to employees on unpaid parental leave.
  • In the case of employee couples, some organisations recognised that families want to be able to swap the primary carer role between parents at different times:

    • 23% allowed parents to share the one paid parental leave period (e.g. they share the 12 weeks paid parental leave period, each taking 6 weeks leave), provided they do not take leave concurrently, and each is the primary caregiver for the time they are on leave.
    • 14% allowed parents to each take their own paid parental leave period (e.g. 12 weeks paid parental leave each), provided they are the primary caregiver at that time and leave is not taken concurrently.
    • 11% allowed parents to share the one paid parental leave period (e.g. they share the 12 weeks paid parental leave period, each taking 6 weeks leave) and take overlapping periods of leave.


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  • by Not a Working Family 19/06/2012 3:40:13 PM

    What is often not discussed (maybe it isn't PC) are the costs associated with these options. We recognise the cost of turnover on an organisation, but how is it different if someone goes on parental leave to resigning? We still need to hire and train a replacement. There is still the fall in productivity while the new employee comes up to speed and gets familiar with the organisation, plus you have a similar (though lessor) situation when an employee returns from 12 months leave and have to reaquaint themselves to the workplace and what has changed during their absence. We add this to the cost of paying the leave as well as their replacements salary, plus return to work payments and costs to the business of accomodating part time/flexible work schedules on return, and I think the equation would not be as positive as we all generally beleive. That's not even mentioning 'family/carers leave' impacts after the return of the employee!

    I think a little more balanaced approach and open discussion on this topic in our industry is probably in order...without fear of being labelled as politically incorrect. Afterall, private businesses do exist to make a profit for thier owners/shareholders. I think the ROI on these types of incentives should be considered within that light.

    If you haven't heard of 'singleism', it would pay to have quick read to understand some of the flipside views and implications.

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