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Supporting your new parents BEFORE they go on leave

Becoming a parent is a time of massive change.  While incredibly rewarding, the experience, from inception through to toddlerdom (and beyond), can put significant stress and strain on parents. Returning to work can be particularly challenging; in addition to leaving their baby with a carer and changes to routines, re-entering the workplace after time out can be daunting. 

How organisations support parents before, during and after their leave, can have a big impact on their longevity and performance within the organisation.  In fact, it can often make the difference as to whether they choose to return at all!

Why supporting parents is important:

a. We know that fostering diverse teams and inclusive environments leads to tangible business success.  However, we’re still seeing many women exit the workforce after becoming parents.  This has a significant flow-on effect for diversity, impacting the proportion of women in senior leadership roles, for which statistics remain stubbornly low.

b. Less than 2% of paid primary carer leave in Aotearoa is taken by dads.  Yet fathers playing an active role in their children’s formative years has a direct benefit to childhood development and wellbeing.  And when men are more equal at home, women can be more equal at work, allowing them to return to work faster and to accept promotions or new roles.

c. Gender equality promotes economic growth. The think tank Council on Foreign Regulations estimates that closing the gender gap in the workforce could add a staggering $28 trillion dollars to global GDP.  Put simply, when women work, economies grow.

I believe that organisations should support parents right across their parenting journey, starting from before their parental leave starts.  And not just mothers; this support must also extend to dads and be inclusive of all family types.

To help businesses get started, or to improve, I’ve created a three-part series of articles focusing on the before, during and after, milestones of parenthood.  In this first instalment, I’ve set out the conversations that businesses should be having and the information they should be sharing with their new parents BEFORE parental leave commences. 

1. Support your people with applying for government paid parental leave

This can be a tricky process and people usually have questions, especially when it’s their first time.  Helping your soon-to-be parents understand the process and their entitlements can make all the difference.  Note that the first primary carer can now transfer their paid parental leave entitlement to their partner during the payment period by following the process set out on the Inland Revenue website.

2. Provide an overview of your polices such as parental leave and other leave

Do this proactively – don’t assume your people will know where to locate these policies or understand what they mean for them.  Also discuss any other entitlements that you may be able to offer them including special paid leave or unpaid leave etc.

3. Discuss any flexible working options available to them RIGHT NOW

Managing the challenges of pregnancy while juggling job obligations can be really hard.  Discuss how you can support your parents by offering flexible working options during pregnancy.  This could include giving them the flexibility to attend appointments such as medical visits, antenatal and IVF appointments or court appearances relating to adoption, surrogacy or foster care.

4. Proactively share any other financial support available over their leave so they can plan

Reduction in income is usually one of the biggest stressors for new parents.  So, if your organisation provides financial support such as KiwiSaver top-ups during parental leave or additional payments after returning to work, this is a great time to share them.  Think about the other financial contributions they’ll be able to tap into – like a pay-rise or bonus whilst on leave; if eligible, make sure they complete any task requirements before they go on leave (like a performance review form).  And think about the other benefits you can offer – such as the ability for them to keep their work mobile phone or laptop whilst on leave.

5. Discuss how your team member would like to stay connected with you whilst on leave

This could include frequency of contact (which may vary over the course of their leave, e.g., giving them a bit more space in the early months) and the best way to get in touch with them.  You can also discuss ‘keeping in touch’ days if applicable so they are kept up to date with key business and team updates.

6. Share any other practical support available

This may include making parking spaces available closer to the worksite or allowing more working from home days in the final stages of pregnancy.  Other things to consider are working hours and meeting times – if they are experiencing morning sickness for example, are you able to help them adapt their work schedule to accommodate this?

These tips are taken from my “Back to Business after Baby” programme – a combination of workshops, 1-1 coaching and sessions for leaders.  The programme can be tailored to your needs and budget, and helps businesses provide support for new parents at every stage of their journey. If you’d like to receive a copy of my brochure or have a chat to find out more, please get in touch on robin@robindaviesconsulting.co.nz.

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