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Ways to Support New Parents Returning to Work

Published February 17, 2023 (last updated on November 23, 2023) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

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According to research conducted by Seek, a job search platform, 87% people think employers should offer some level of support to employees returning from parental leave. With a tight labour market and staff shortages, a business that is family friendly and an employer who is supportive of new parents can be hugely appealing to employees.

In February, AIA NZ, Aotearoa’s popular life insurance company announced it was enhancing its employee parental leave policy for primary caregivers. Under the new policy, caregivers will now receive 14 weeks of leave at full pay on top of any payments made under the government’s 26 week paid parental leave subsidy. In addition, AIA will also pay KiwiSaver contributions for any unpaid portion of parental leave. Last July, New Zealand started granting new parents an extra $40 a week when they avail paid parental leave entitlements.

Parental leave and business

Research has shown that only 8.9% of Kiwi organisations with more than 20 employees top up the salary of staff who are on parental leave. Fewer than that contribute to KiwiSaver accounts during this time. But with 100,000 people in NZ welcoming a child into the world every year, organisations that want to retain their staff might have to support parents and caregivers effectively.

Employees are making choices about where they want to work not based only on money but on less quantifiable factors such as flexibility and organisational support towards work-life balance. Ellen Joan Nelson, a researcher has come up with a campaign, #workschoolhours (working 9 am-3 pm) to benefit working parents and employees who desire flexibility. Ellen has a PhD on the experiences of women in the workforce and wants to bring attention to the societal issue of our 9-5 schedules not aligning with school schedules. Working 9-5 is a traditional, outdated model that was created several years ago, built on an assumption that each household had a male worker and a female caregiver.

Times have changed and now most families have both parents working, not to mention single parent households. The #workschoolhours campaign focuses on aligning with school hours, offering schedule flexibility and the notion that output is more important than the number of hours worked.

What do employees want?

Nelson’s research has found that parents working part-time deliver the same outputs and complete the same workload as full-time workers. This also supports the belief that just because you sit at a desk for eight hours doesn’t mean you are productive for eight hours. Parents, caregivers, and a new generation of employees disagree with the archaic concept of working longer hours linked to doing more work and output.

It also makes commercial sense for employers to consider moving to innovative systems of working. With The Great Resignation around us, staff feeling burnt out or having trouble producing, employers who focus on output rather than the when and where of work, they can retain staff and improve productivity.

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Let’s look at other ways you can support new parents at your workplace and why that is a smart choice for your business.

Plan Their Return

With childcare responsibilities, it is always best to plan their return carefully. Employees can write to the employer discussing:

  • Your agreed start dates

  • Agreed work hours

  • Facilities you may need (breastfeeding area etc)

  • Your responsibilities (if they have changed or any handover needs to be completed)

  • Any new policies that they need to know

Employers should inform the other staff members of the returning employee as well. If there is any employee covering for the returning parent then talk to them about their contract ending or extension. You can also ask the new parent to have a handover session or meeting with the employee handling their duties.

Have A Policy

Employees are unaware of the resources and policies unavailable to them. Ensure you communicate the policy or company process to new parents returning to work. This policy should cover everything from the moment they go on leave to the day they return and start their role.

A business is likely to thrive when the employees feel supported and happy in their role.

Support Your Employees

New parents need a lot of assistance and support. Check-in with your employees to see how they are faring. As an employer, you must make reasonable attempts to meet the needs of your employees. Research has shown that employers who support their workers to breastfeed, discover benefits such as improved staff satisfaction, morale, improve retention, and reduced absenteeism. While it may not be possible for small businesses to have lounges or rooms, you can create a clean private area with a comfortable chair, a fridge, and wash basin. If an employee needs to express at work, make sure everybody is respectful of that and they feel comfortable enough to do so at work.

Providing flexibility and support with working hours and days can be a challenge for small businesses who are already struggling with staff issues. However, it may be beneficial to you and your business in the long run to support flexibility.

You can look for alternatives such as:

  • Allowing employees to swap days or hours

  • Allowing new parents to work from home or consider starting early and finishing early

  • Hiring temporary staff to assist with the workload

  • Creating a work from home policy and roster

Call Employsure today to get help with your policies and employment relations. Call our 24/7 Advice Line NOW.

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