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Attracting & retaining staff: paid parental leave?

In the current climate of the pandemic, some healthcare and community care employers are facing workforce shortages and finding it difficult to attract and retain staff. Small business and private practice owners in particular are struggling to compete with the salaries and incentives offered by larger organisations.

Food for thought: As an employment incentive, employers can consider offering paid maternity and parental leave.

It is important that employers are aware of their obligations regarding maternity and parental leave. The minimum legal requirement under the Fair Work Act is that employees (including long-term casuals) who have worked with their employer for more than 12 months can take unpaid parental leave when they or their partner give birth or adopt a child. They can also request up to a total of 24 months of unpaid parental leave. This minimum legal requirement includes a guarantee that the employee can return to their job after they complete their leave.

However, employers can choose to take best practice initiatives, above and beyond their minimum legal requirements. For example, providing a period of employer-funded paid parental leave can assist employees who are pregnant, on parental leave or returning to work. This type of best practice initiative can also help attract and retain new employees who may be considering or planning to start a family.

According to the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), the positive outcomes of paid parental leave span beyond attracting and retaining skilled workers. For example, the WGEA reports that “the availability of paid parental leave for each parent fosters an equal division of unpaid care and improves family work-life balance.”1 This could be an important consideration for employers who are endeavouring to foster and maintain a mentally healthy workplace.

It is important to have a workplace policy that outlines your approach to parental leave and the employer and employee obligations. Your parental leave policy should include detailed information on the following considerations:

  • the employee’s leave entitlements, including unpaid parental leave, government funded paid parental leave and any employer-funded benefits

  • the employee’s requirements on giving notice

  • the transition arrangements for taking leave and returning to work

  • the communication process for keeping in touch during the leave period

  • the options for flexible working arrangements

Paid parental leave is one example of a wide range of best practice initiatives and employee incentives which can be provided at the employer’s discretion. For tailored advice on your employer obligations and best practice initiatives to attract and retain staff, please contact us today.


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