One of the most life-altering experiences people go through is becoming a parent... There are so many questions to ask and unknowns ahead. One major concern that can be eased though, is making sure that parents feel supported and connected by the business that they work for. As an employer, it can often be hard to know how to approach parental leave correctly.
Getting your parental leave strategy right will not just help the soon to be parents in their transition, but also boost their productivity and engagement for when they return back to work.
Communication is paramount
The first question that should be asked is what is a good level of communication? In a 2015 study, 45% of mothers reported problems with the level of communication during their parental leave. Of this, 26% felt they were not receiving enough contact. Rather than hypothesising over the right amount, we recommend having each employee decide their own frequency and method of communication. We have found this creates a level of empowerment for many of our clients' employees. If you create pre-defined contact points that trigger based on a person's settings, it reduces labour and the risk of human error.
It’s not just the communication method that needs to be determined. Does an employee know exactly what they are entitled to? Many companies offer some great incentives like cleaning services, home cooked meals, return to work benefits, flexible hours, etc. etc. Yes, we know your business policies probably are only 5 clicks away on the intranet. However, when you dig out the information and serve it to your employees on a silver platter (figuratively speaking), it shows a level of care and interest that is often very appreciated.
How familiar are your managers with the government regulations and specific company policies around parental leave? Often topics like these can be viewed as sensitive, and cause managers not to understand their duties in full. As the relationship between a manager and an employee is generally the strongest, the onus should be on the manager, rather than HR, to ensure to keep in touch and facilitate the ad hoc communication that occurs with a return to work strategy. The manager should maintain an open relationship with their HR peers in order to make sure a smooth process pre-leave and post-leave occurs. Think about introducing pre-determined touch points to managers along the parental leave timeline, feeding information to the employee on what their team is up to, and aim to facilitate great communication between the manager and the employee.
Keeping in touch
As time progresses, many employees on parental leave struggle with feeling disconnected from the business, with the fear of responding to communications, as it can be shown that they are “back online” working again. One great method for keeping in contact can be to create LinkedIn or Facebook pages specifically to team members on leave. This is a fantastic method if you don’t have many resources to create frequent newsletters. If your company uses chat applications, perhaps you can create a channel specifically for those on parental leave? This way you can surface important company announcements and help to keep your employees feeling like they are in the loop.
Transitioning back to work
Any parent returning back to work will face some serious challenges in getting their work-life balance on track again, so as a business it’s vital to get the basics right. In the lead up to your employees return, make sure that the manager knows exactly when to start preparing and what to do. We know how awful it is starting a new job and not having a desk setup. Think about how that terrible experience is amplified if you are an existing employee returning to work with nothing ready or setup for you!
By having pre-defined checkpoints, many of our clients are using our platform to alert IT and HR when a manager confirms a return date. It’s also important to keep the wider team in the loop for when they will be returning. You can never underestimate the power of the little things – a welcome back card on the desk or a team lunch – to make the transition easier and a little less uncomfortable.
When thinking about parental leave, we have found that it’s the small things that make the big difference. Great experiences are always rewarded back to businesses through employee loyalty and happiness. If you have a unique or specifically great way of how you engage your employees that go on parental leave, please feel free to contact us. We’re also happy to share more of some the amazing parental leave stories we have collected from clients using our platform.