Media release

7 July 2011

Generous parental leave policies can benefit employers, says Fair Work Ombudsman

Implementing generous and accommodating parental leave policies can help employers boost their productivity and bottom line, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says employers who take the time to consider their staff needs can reap substantial rewards.

“Employers with parental leave policies that make employees feel valued can benefit from having more committed and productive staff,” Mr Wilson said. “They will also improve staff retention, resulting in lower recruitment and training costs.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman has produced a Parental Leave Best Practice Guide to provide advice for employers on how to develop policies that provide optimal support for employees who access parental leave.

“Best practice employers go beyond their minimum legal obligations and develop parental leave policies that are tailored to their employees’ specific needs, while also being mutually beneficial to their business,” Mr Wilson said.

The new Guide is available for free download at www.fairwork.gov.au.

It adds to the Best Practice Guides on work and family, individual flexibility arrangements, consultation and co-operation, young workers, gender pay equity, small business and the Fair Work Act, bargaining, privacy, managing underperformance and dispute resolution, also available on the website.

The Parental Leave Best Practice Guide explores a range of features employers can consider including in any paid or unpaid parental leave policy, including:

  • providing extended periods of employer-funded paid leave,
  • ‘topping-up’ an employee’s pay during a period of Government-funded Paid Parental Leave to their full rate of pay,
  • continuing to pay an employee’s superannuation contributions while on unpaid leave,
  • a return-to-work bonus, payable after an employee has returned to work following parental leave,
  • providing the option of taking paid leave at half pay,
  • allowing the non-primary carer to access existing leave entitlements, including personal leave, at the time of the birth, potentially for extended periods, and
  • allowing employees to purchase and repay longer periods of paid leave.

The Guide also discusses the importance of staying connected with employees while they are on leave.

“Good communication arrangements can help an employee on leave feel attached to the workplace, their career and their colleagues,” Mr Wilson said.

Best practice policies also detail the support strategies the employer will use to ensure the employee has a smooth transition back into the workplace on their return from parental leave.

The Guide offers a range of strategies employers can consider, including:

  • beginning discussions early about managing the employee’s return to work, including what their role will be and expectations around working hours and the taking of leave,
  • accommodating employee needs, such as access to a place for breastfeeding and enabling children to access the workplace,
  • considering employee requests for flexible working arrangements, such as part-time work, job-share arrangements and telecommuting or home-based work,
  • allowing employees to access annual leave in single or part days, and
  • allowing employees to take time off in lieu of overtime payments – or to work additional hours to make up for time taken off.

Mr Wilson says best practice parental leave policies incorporate innovative and flexible arrangements that assist parents before, during and after a period of parental leave.

“Employers should consult with employees when developing parental leave policies to ensure they understand their employees’ needs and ideas,” he said.

“We encourage all employers to visit our website to download the Parental Leave Best Practice Guide.”

“Educating workplace participants and encouraging best practice is a key part of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s role as we strive to create harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces.”

Employers and employees seeking more information should visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreter service is available by calling 13 14 50.

Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman on Twitter @fairwork_gov_au external-icon.

Media inquiries:

Ryan Pedler, Senior Adviser, Media & Stakeholder Relations
(03) 9954 2561, 0411 430 902
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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Page last updated: 07 Jul 2011