How employers can make parental leave work for business

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This is a great article highlighting how companies can make the most of their employees going on parental leave – there really are benefits for everyone and the business when you embrace the change!

Managers “myopic” about parental leave, HR should take charge

HR professionals have a complex role to play in being the “person in the middle” when employees take maternity leave, according to an HR and technology specialist.

This means they have to be excellent communicators and “understand both sides of the fence” in terms of what employees and the business need, says Barry Lehrer, founder and director of DiffuzeHR.

“When someone goes on maternity leave, don’t turn them off the system,” – it is vital to keep communicating with employees on parental leave to keep them abreast of company and policy changes, he told HR Daily.

“Keep them in the system, so they’re part of the communication. It doesn’t have to be every three or four weeks, it may be an ad-hoc thing. But I think they’d be a lot more encouraged and feel good about knowing what’s going [on in] the company they’re working in, instead of coming back after 12 months and going, ‘what happened here?'” he says.

Prepare early

Lehrer says that as soon as HR professionals are aware of someone going on maternity leave, they must start planning for their absence, and then track the employee’s plans “the whole way”.

Job descriptions play a vital role here, he says, so HR should ensure they’re up to date, or reviewed before someone takes leave.

“If you do that, and really understand the role of what a person is doing, when they go on maternity leave or any other type of leave, you actually have a very clear picture of what’s going to become missing.”

HR professionals must also consider the amount of work the employee is doing prior to leaving, how much a replacement person will be able to achieve, and what is practical and possible when the employee returns, he says.

“If someone says ‘I’m going on maternity leave in four months’, you can’t ask them to do six months’ worth of work in four months.”

Lehrer notes that when DiffuzeHR’s CEO returned from two months’ maternity leave, that didn’t mean “that I now think she’s come back and I can come and push and push, or our board can push her to do everything”.

“It doesn’t matter whether it was two months or 12 months, when someone comes back, you have to have consideration,” he urges.

HR should put regulatory parental leave policies in black and white, Lehrer says, but then it’s up to the organisation to build a philosophy or culture around that.

By having all employment contracts, job descriptions, workplace policies and other legal documents in an easily-accessible and comprehensive HR system, the burden is off HR staff, and it’s easier for the temp workers to understand their roles.

Employers must stop being “myopic”

A lot of managers still become disgruntled when someone goes on parental leave, but Lehrer says this is a “myopic” way of thinking because it ignores how employees taking leave benefits them.

“It’s a great opportunity to review what you do,” he says, noting that it gives employers a chance to determine whether there is a more efficient way of doing someone’s role.

“[If] somebody says, ‘I only want to work four days’, then say to yourself, ‘what this guy is doing in five days, can it go down in four days? Do we need everything he does? Is some of it superfluous?’.

“What ends up happening is you become a more efficient company.”

Where the person taking leave is in a senior position, HR could use the opportunity to promote an existing long-term employee to fill the senior role temporarily, giving them valuable higher-level experience, while a contractor or temp fills that employee’s role, Lehrer adds.

He stresses that when HR are assessing replacement staff, people must be informed that they are being hired on a temporary basis until such time as the employee returns from parental leave.

Don’t forget men

Men who work flexibly and take extended leave after the birth of a child are still rare, but those who do report feeling judged and unsupported, Lehrer notes.

“Good companies really need to sit down with their employees and talk to them; understand what their needs are. And at the same time an employee needs to feel the confidence he can talk to his employer or manager, tell him what he’s feeling; tell him what he wants to do, and know that his manager is going to listen and not smirk at him…

“[The manager can] then say, ‘you are a good employee we need; you are a great value for the company, how can we make this work together?’

“Understanding what people want, people understanding the needs of the company, meeting in the middle and saying, ‘[this is] how this is going to work for both of us’, will engender a much more loyal employee,” Lehrer adds.

“Thinking that [when you’re] losing [an existing employee], someone will pick up the pieces is a very poor philosophy and will give you high turnover in your firm; and high turnover just is not sensible.”

Source: HR Daily

 

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