Keeping in touch with an employee on parental leave

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All employees in Australia are entitled to parental leave provided that they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months.

For casual employees to be eligible for unpaid parental leave they need to have:

  • been working for their employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months; and
  • have a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis, had it not been for the birth or adoption of a child.

Returning to work

Once the period of parental leave has finished, there is a presumptive right to return to work. Employees with children under school age, or under 18 with a disability have the right to request flexible working arrangements, which may include working part-time. Employers can only refuse such requests if they have reasonable business grounds to do so. That’s just one of the reasons why it insufficient to simply arrange for the employee to take a period of parental leave and expect a smooth transition back to work after having little to no contact with the employee for some 12 months.

What can employers do?

All employers should have a parental leave policies which include details about keeping in touch when an employee who on leave. Putting communication arrangements in place can help an employee on leave feel connected to the workplace, their colleagues and their career.

How can an employer effectively keeping in touch with an employee on parental leave?

  • meeting with an employee before they commence their period of leave to discuss key contacts, important dates and milestones during the leave and handovers of work or clients
  • arranging a pre-determined time to contact the employee on leave, so the employee’s expectations and preferences in relation to contact during parental leave can be properly taken into account and managed
  • ensuring a nominated person in the workplace is given responsibility of keeping the employee on leave informed about important information in the workplace, such as any important changes to the structure of the employee’s workplace
  • forwarding staff newsletters, updates and important emails to the employee’s home email account where appropriate, or arranging for them to have remote access to their work email account where practical
  • inviting all employees on parental leave to attend any planning days, training or team building days, social events, which occur during their leave
  • arranging a meeting with the employee when the period of leave is coming to an end to discuss the return-to-work expectations of the employee and the employer, such as hours of work, flexible working arrangements, or any adjustments that will need to be made to their role.

It is important to ensure that while employees on parental leave should be kept up to date on important changes to the workplace and invited to social work functions, it must also be made clear that such invitations are strictly optional and in no way required of the employee.

If you have any concerns about how to manage employees on parental leave and ensure a smooth return to the workforce, please do not hesitate to contact me.