Planning parental leave

In 2016, there were 84,884 mums and 33,306 dads in the private sector who took parental leave.

Given these huge numbers, CCI’s Employee Relations Advice Centre is reminding businesses of the importance of planning ahead.

In order to best facilitate the period of leave and the employee’s return to work, it’s worth thinking ahead about the needs of both the employee and the business.

ERAC says there are three critical areas to think about before, during and after the leave.

Temporary cover during parental leave

Firstly, consider if you can redistribute your employee’s work in their absence or if you need to recruit someone into the role on a temporary parental leave cover contract.

When recruiting, bear in mind that the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) require employers to make clear to the temporary employee that their employment is based on the period of parental leave only. This includes incorporating a term into the contract that highlights the employment period may be reduced should the period of parental leave end earlier than anticipated.

Also, ensure no guarantee is given of work beyond the parental leave period. And ensure start and end dates for the expected period of parental leave are confirmed in writing in order to facilitate a temporary cover contract.

Ensure open communication during the leave

Keep the lines of communication open with the employee while on leave and keep them informed of general workplace changes, ensuring they continue to feel involved, engaged and valued.

Regular communication during the leave period will be a critical factor in ensuring a smooth return to work, particularly when it comes to arranging keeping-in-touch days.

When implementing workplace changes that affect an employee on parental leave, it is necessary to consult with the employee as soon as practical.

Be creative when managing flexibility requests

Employees commonly request a return to work on a flexible basis.

In order to retain valuable employees who have family responsibilities, it makes perfect business sense to be as creative as possible and explore options to facilitate such requests.

When refusing flexible work requests, ensure all avenues have been exhausted in order to demonstrate a genuine business case for refusal. This will assist the business in mitigating claims.

Contact your employee prior to their expected return date, ensuring ample time to adequately consider any requests for flexibility or extension of leave.

Requests for flexibility need not be permanent but any terms varying the original contract should be clearly set out and agreed to in writing.

For further information contact CCI’s Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08)9365 7660 or [email protected].

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