Nearly two in every five employees have caring responsibilities for children; so, chances are your business employs one or more working parents.
Juggling work and family commitments is a reality for many employees; and negotiating the transition back to work after having a child can be a particularly challenging time for both employees and employers. But are babies really bad for business? We don’t think so and our step by step guide to supporting working parents shows why.
What rights do working parents have?
The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides eligible employees the right to request flexible working arrangements and protections from being treated unfairly because they have requested flexible work.
The Act also provides that an eligible employee returning from parental leave is entitled to return to their pre-parental leave position. Generally, this is the original job held before any changes were made to accommodate a pregnancy. Rights to reallocation of employment and/ or redundancy may apply if the role is no longer available.
An eligible employee is one who has worked for you on a continuous basis for at least 12 months, full time or part time and is a parent and/ or has responsibility for the care of a child who is of school age or younger. In some circumstances a casual employee may also be considered eligible.
What if my employee wants to return to work under a different arrangement?
An employee seeking flexible working arrangements must submit their request in writing, providing details of the change requested and the reasons for the change.
As an employer you must genuinely consider each request, assessing whether it would be reasonable to implement and provide your written response within 21 days. In considering what is reasonable, the size and structure of your business and the type of work performed will be taken into account.
A request can only be refused on reasonable business grounds and an explanation for your decision should be provided.
If accepting, confirm the arrangements in writing and implement periodic reviews to ensure the agreement continues to work for you and your employee.
Hint: In some cases it may be helpful to view the initial request as a starting point, from which you can open a dialogue with your employee and can negotiate an outcome that will be mutually agreeable.
What do flexible working arrangements look like?
There is no one-size fits all approach, however typical flexible practices include:
- compressed working weeks or 9 day fortnights;
- reduced hours (i.e. working part time);
- working from home;
- flexible hours i.e. changed start and finish times;
- enabling children to attend the workplace (where safe);
- providing information to parents about child care facilities near the workplace;
- supporting expressing and/ or breastfeeding by ensuring the availability of a private room with a comfortable chair, a fridge and/ or somewhere to store a breast pump;
- a combination of any of these.
In addition, schedule meetings, training and other events at times when most staff are able to attend to ensure ongoing motivation, commitment and buy-in from all parties.
Note: While some larger organisations offer more extensive programs such as on-site child care facilities, the cost of these facilities to the employee is typically on par with external child care providers and these initiatives are generally not considered reasonable for smaller businesses to provide.
What are the benefits?
Working with your employees to achieve balance between their work and family commitments can reap many benefits including, but not limited to:
- a positive culture and high staff morale;
- reduced staff turnover, leading to lower recruitment and on-boarding costs;
- reduced absenteeism;
- maintained and improved productivity by retaining valued employees; and
- business efficiency through long term industry knowledge, networks and contacts.
Supporting your working parents with flexible working arrangements really can be a win-win situation.
By Melanie Bridge. This article was published in Business News August 21, 2017