There seems to be a bit of a baby boom going on. Well, certainly with our clients! So, I thought I would start the year with an article about parental leave and how it affects employers.
Things are changing when it comes to parental leave. The legislation is being modernised to take into account today’s various working arrangements and increasingly diverse family structures. Changes are coming up in terms of entitlements and eligibility – some of which will come into force soon. For example, the current 14 week paid parental leave entitlement increases to 16 weeks on 1 April 2015 and then to 18 weeks on 1 April 2016.
It seems to me that parental leave is one of the least understood areas of the employment relationship, especially when it comes to employers knowing their rights. Some employers don’t know where to start when they hear that a staff member is taking parental leave.
Planning and being proactive
Like any other aspect of HR, the focus for managing parental leave should be on planning and being proactive. It starts by having a meeting with the employee to discuss what they would like to do, agreeing timelines, then following up with good documentation from this meeting and any follow-up discussions. As an employer you have far more control over the process than you might think.
It’s important to check the legislation for eligibility and entitlements relating to the employee’s situation. It depends on a number of factors including how long the employee has worked for you, whether this is their first or subsequent time taking parental leave, whether they are on a working visa, and whether the role is a key position. Each individual’s situation should be checked out. MBIE have published excellent guides which can be found at www.dol.govt.nz including summaries of paid and unpaid leave entitlements available to eligible parents. As an employer, you should get acquainted with your employee’s entitlement to parental leave and what your obligations are, when an employee returns to work.
In terms of timing, the employer can finalise the parental leave arrangements up to 3 months out from the due date. During these last 3 months there should be a focus on recruiting to cover the parental leave, possibly reviewing the services the business offers and, in rare cases, seeking the appropriate approval to not hold the position open.
An important aspect of the planning is to evaluate how your business will be affected and to make decisions that take all factors into account. Spare a thought for the HR department at a care home in the UK last year when 6 work-mates all found out they were pregnant at around the same time!
How we can help you
For many of our clients, parental leave is an enigma and not something they deal with every day.
A good place to start is with a planning session to help you know your rights and responsibilities, address any questions and concerns you have, and to guide you on what good practice is.
You may want support the whole way through the process, including engaging us to be present at planning sessions with the employee, documenting agreed arrangements, and guiding you on your rights and responsibilities to help with your decision making. Or, if you would like to run the process yourself, we can provide templates that help give structure to the process.
If you have questions about parental leave, let’s have a chat. We would love to help.