How to Confidently Talk With Your Employer About Your Parental Rights
Talking about parental rights in the workplace doesn’t need to feel uncomfortable. Expert coach Rebekah Fraser ensures you’ll be informed and much more confident for these important discussions
7 min read
“The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity for growth”. How true. And what bigger challenge in there than growing a human being, raising them to be a good person, and maintaining your sense of self in the process?
I’m yet to meet a parent who says that parenting is easy. In fact, just about everyone I’ve ever spoken to about it says it’s, hands down, the toughest job they’ve ever done. It stretches us, it challenges us, it makes us learn, adopt new strategies and try new things. With this challenge we grow, and when we grow, we improve. We broaden our skill sets. We diversify our talents. We add more strings to our bow.
So why does our self-confidence often falter when we’ve had a baby?
Why do we so often doubt our ability or feel that we’ve got less to offer the world of work?
Why do we so often accept what’s offered to us rather than ask for what we want when we return to work?
Many organisations are doing a great job of supporting parents in their workplaces. Is yours?
Below are some of the best practices that organisations are implementing – as well as some questions you can ask to help your employer help you at this exciting, scary and incredible time of your life.
While you are pregnant…
On top of congratulating you on your pregnancy, best practice organisations will:
- provide you with information about their parental leave policy and procedures, including any payments or benefits above the statutory entitlements, and information relating to how to take Paid Parental Leave and applying for Paid Parental Leave
- discuss return to work options, including your rights to request flexible work arrangements including how the work is done, hours, days, place of work, as well as the option of part-time work, and a phased start
- involve you and other members of staff in a discussion around how your role will be covered during your parental leave, and if relevant, include you in the selection of this person and the creation of a handover plan
- outline your Keeping in Touch (KIT) entitlements and agree a KIT plan with you including when and how often you’d like to be contacted, what topics you’d like to be kept informed about (i.e., invitations to training and development, conferences, team days, project work, social events, organisational changes, etc), how you’d like to be contacted, who you’d like to hear from, and what your contact details will be while on leave
- share information relating to the use of the tools of your trade (i.e., your work phone, laptop, access card/keys, company car etc) and coverage of these costs while you are on leave
- share details of their private, clean, quiet and suitably equipped (i.e., comfortable furniture, fridge) breast-feeding/expressing facilities
- provide access to support services (such as EAP and specialised transition coaching) and resources (such as books, links to useful info, parent networks, buddy system etc)
- invite you to visit the business and introduce your baby while on parental leave
Questions you can ask your employer
- Does the business offer any benefits over and above the statutory requirements? Am I eligible to accrue annual leave while away? Will I be included for consideration in the annual pay review/bonus/commission payments?
- What are my options in terms of returning to work in a flexible way? Can I return part-time if I wish? Can I phase in my return?
- Can I be involved in a discussion about how my role is covered while I’m away? Can I be involved in selecting my parental leave cover? Can I help draft the handover plan?
- What company-wide events and initiatives are scheduled for the time that I’ll be away? What am I able to be attend during this period of time to keep in the loop and up to date about the business and / or industry?
- Will I be able to utilise the tools of my trade while on parental leave? How will those costs be covered?
- Where are the breast-feeding/expressing facilities located? Can I see these ahead of time?
- Can I have access to a coach to help me navigate the transition from working professional to parent to working professional parent as enjoyably and efficiently as possible? Does the business have established parent groups or a parent network that I could join? Does the business have a parental leave buddy system in place?
- What are the questions that other parental leavers typically ask you?
During your parental leave…
During parental leave, best practice organisations will:
- send you their congratulations (and hopefully a bunch of flowers or a present!)
- provide a warm welcome when you and your child visit the office
- do what they’ve agreed to do in terms of keeping in touch with you prior to going on parental leave
- towards the end of the parental leave period, they will express their enthusiasm about you returning to work, confirm a return date, and initiate a transition plan which includes details of a phased or flexible return (if relevant), extended breaks to allow for breastfeeding / expressing, a hand over with the parental leave cover, and a briefing from your manager and peers.
Questions you can ask:
- Can we talk about a transition plan for my return?
- How does the feeding facility operate? How many mothers can it accommodate at a time? Is there a booking system?
When you return to work…
Upon your return to work (and aside from recognising your return to the workplace – maybe even throwing you a welcome back morning tea!), best practice organisations will
- implement your return to work plan as agreed and make adjustments as required
- understand that more flexibility may be required in the initial stages of returning to work as you adjust to the transition and your child settles in with childcare
- ensure that you have access to a functional workspace and/or the necessary tools and that access codes/keys are available to you
- have the feeding facility ready and available for you to use
- review your salary and pay any commissions or bonuses due to you
- review performance and keep you in mind for any relevant development and/or promotional opportunities
- offer and introduce you to peer-based support within the organisation
Questions you can ask:
- Will my workspace be ready for me upon my return? Can I gain access to my parking pass/swipe card prior to my return date?
- When can we meet to talk about my career plan?
- Who can you connect me with who has recently returned from parental leave?