Home' HR Monthly : August 2014 Contents 26
FEATURE: PARENTAL LEAVE
The Sex Discrimination Commissioner conducted a
survey as part of a review into discrimination in relation
to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental
leave. The results were damning: some of those surveyed
suffered a change of work hours against their wishes,
had their salary or bonus reduced, received a lower pay
rise or bonus than peers, or found their position had
been permanently filled.
The impact on fathers and partners wasn't so severe,
yet 17 per cent still reported discrimination when they
returned to work after taking parental leave.
Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth
Broderick says that, in some workplaces, there is
a question over whether people who have caring
responsibilities have the ability to be as committed to
work or as serious about their careers as those who don't.
"The bias or the perception is that your commitment
has shifted and that you no longer view work as
the most important thing, and that has negative
repercussions in the workplace," she says.
Broderick advises employers to stay in touch with
the parent during the period of leave and plan for the
transition back into the workforce before the first day
back from leave.
WHAT THE LAW
• An employee who has
been on parental leave is
entitled to come back to
the job they had before
they went on leave, the
Fair Work Act states.
• If the job doesn't exist
anymore, the employer
has to offer the employee
a suitable, available
job for which they are
qualified and the nearest
in pay and status to the
• If someone else is
doing the employee's
tasks, this doesn't mean
the employee's role
doesn't exist anymore.
• Parents returning
to work after taking
parental leave have the
right to request flexible
Employers have to
respond in writing
within 21 days and
can only refuse the
request on reasonable
• More generally, the
federal Sex Discrimination
Act 1984 and its state
and territory equivalents
say employers can't
discriminate on the basis
of family responsibilities.
"Human resources managers who want to retain the
best talent will actually have processes to ensure that out
of sight is not out of mind, that the return to work is well
planned out, and that there's someone to support that
person returning, at least for an initial period," she says.
She adds that a manager should also consider sitting
down with the parent returning to work to talk through
how they see their career progressing.
"Some may choose to take a bit more of a backseat
than they'd originally intended," says Broderick.
"Others will want to progress in a way they did before
they had the child."
Flexible work arrangements also come into play. These
are part of a modern workplace that wants to retain the
best talent, says Broderick.
"In some areas it is about job redesign," she says.
"Squashing essentially a six-day-a-week job into three
days doesn't make for a good flexible work arrangement.
It doesn't work for the employee and it won't work for
NAB's strong stance
The National Australia Bank has a return-to-work rate
for employees on primary care of 80 per cent -- up from
65 per cent in 2006. The strong result is due to staying
in touch with employees on leave and then providing
flexible work arrangements 'for the vast majority of jobs'
and helping with childcare, says Susan Karson, general
manager of people at NAB Wealth.
Staying connected with staff on leave "is a big focus"
for NAB. The bank has recently launched a newsletter to
keep staff informed, featuring stories of employees who
have made successful returns to work.
"We think the newsletter is a really important way of
letting them know what's happening in the organisation
and giving them tips about what they might want to think
about when they come back to work," says Karson.
NAB provides a range of flexible work options,
such as compressed working weeks, job sharing,
part-time work, flexible start and finish times, and
working from home.
"In terms of being able to attract and retain talent,
we see workplace flexibility as being critical to that."
"THE BIAS OR THE PERCEPTION
IS THAT THE EMPLOYEE'S
COMMITMENT HAS SHIFTED
AND THAT HE OR SHE NO LONGER
VIEWS WORK AS THE MOST
IMPORTANT THING, AND THAT HAS
IN THE WORKPLACE."
FEDERAL SEX DISCRIMINATION COMMISSIONER,
THE MEMBERS-ONLY RESOURCE CENTRE HAS RECENTLY HAD
THE PARENTAL LEAVE SECTION UPDATED. HEAD TO
AHRI.COM.AU/ASSIST TO ACCESS INFORMATION SHEETS,
CHECKLISTS, GUIDELINES AND TEMPLATES FOR MANAGING
PARENTAL LEAVE REQUIREMENTS.
NEED EXTRA INFORMATION?
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