The Federal Government's May budget outlined a commitment to paid parental leave from January 2011 for those earning less than $150,000 a year. The scheme will pay the federal minimum wage for 18 weeks and will be funded by the government, not business.
In response, gender diversity expert and former Telsta Business Woman of the Year, Maureen Frank has released my mentor - parental leave, a practical guide for employees on how to plan for, and transition back from, parental leave.
"Paid parental leave will make a big difference, but as some of the doubters have raised, on its' own, it won't be enough to keep good women in the workforce and reduce the economic impact of women leaving," Frank said.
"We need to get practical and educate women on how to come back to work and most importantly, help them believe that they can do it!" she added.
From an employer's perspective, Emberin's my mentor - parental leave program tackles head on the issues associated with women not returning from parental leave and will go some way to help reduce this significant cost to business.
The parental leave guide has been developed in the same style as Frank's successful my mentor suite of programs, as a self-paced course delivered by DVD, CD and workbook, and can be easily undertaken in an intensive day or over a couple of weeks.
The program has been developed in partnership with Telstra and Swinburne University of Technology and has been created specifically to help organisations provide a guide for their employees on how to manage parental leave, both personally and professionally.
At $145 per kit, it enables employers to cost effectively provide the program to all pregnant employees.
Designed to motivate the participant into coming back to work in some capacity, the program takes a pragmatic and practical step by step approach and includes setting goals, plans and budgets around paternity leave.
Frank said she is concerned that sometimes women did not appreciate that parental leave is the tipping point for them and it can have far reaching future economic impacts for women.
"The 'tipping point' of parental leave is a key catalyst to reduced economic security for women and it is one of the reasons we are more likely to see women in poverty in Australia than men.
"It is an economic reality today for women in Australia to have to go back to work after having their baby, but the elephant in the closet is that most women actually do want to go back to work and they just need some guidance and support on how to make this happen, because, let's face it, it's not easy!" she said.
"I've put this program together to help organisations help their employees maintain their careers, consider flexible working arrangements and other strategies, in order to ultimately help employers retain their female talent," she said.
For more information visit www.emberin.com
Maureen's top tips for returning to work after parental leave:
Returning to work doesn't always go exactly as you think it should. Plan to be flexible and give yourself a break.
Plan some 'dry run' days with day care or your child carer the week before you return.
Plan to start on a Wednesday so that you'll have only three days of your new routine the first week.
If you can, take advantage of some sort of flexibility - at least temporarily throughout the first few weeks. You can use your parental leave consecutively or incrementally throughout the first year of your baby's life.
Sleep deprivation is real. Adjusting to the office again can be difficult on a few hours sleep. Try to plan for it by maintaining healthy eating habits and getting as much rest as you can, when you can.
Make sure you have several backup childcare contacts in place.
When possible, particularly in those first transitional weeks, plan to 'outsource' as much as possible. Is grocery delivery available? Delivered meals? A part-time housecleaner?
Be clear on the roles between your partner and yourself.
Make sure you and your manager are clear on what starting expectations are and what the role will entail.
Get rid of the guilt associated with leaving your child - remember, you will be a better mother if you are a happy mother.