What are the main components of a successful paid parental leave program (PPL) and how are they realised in your program?

The main components of a successful parental leave policy are flexibility and support for all parents. If the policy is too rigid it may not suit everyone’s family situation and therefore won’t be beneficial to the parents or the company. 

For example, at Crone secondary carers are entitled to flexible time off when the child is born. This means when the baby is born carers can take the full two weeks leave or spread out the leave over a few weeks e.g. working three days a week for four weeks.

Another key component of the policy is ensuring women feel prepared to return to work after maternity leave and making this transition as smooth as possible. Returning to the workplace can be intimidating, especially when there have been major changes in the office.

Providing women with monthly updates while they are on maternity leave can help them to stay abreast of all the changes and significantly improve the speed at which they transition back to work.

Crone employs the Government’s ‘Keeping in Touch’ (KIT) program which encourages employees on parental leave to stay connected with their workplace to help aid their transition back to work. Employees at Crone can access up to 10 KIT days which entitles them to payment at their normal rate. 

For your employees, what are the benefits of your PPL programs?

There are a number of financial and emotional benefits for Crone’s employees including:

  • An on-boarding system, similar to the induction process for a new employee, which explains all of the changes that have occurred within the office and the industry while the employee was on maternity leave.
  • All employees on parental leave have the right to return to the same or equivalent role and receive the same rate of pay and conditions prior to them taking parental leave, (within 12 months).
  • The primary carer is entitled to 12 weeks paid leave after 12 months of service. The secondary carer is entitled to two weeks paid leave. Both are also entitled to flexible work arrangements for the first few weeks following the birth of the child.
  • When employees advise of their pregnancy, Crone offers to provide further support such as additional paid leave so as to attend medical appointments – five days for the mother and three days for secondary carer.
  • The company also offers mothers, on a case-by-case basis, the options to reduce their hours, change to lighter duties, rotate tasks or take additional breaks throughout the day to ensure high OH&S standards are maintained within the office.

For Crone, what are the main (measurable) benefits of PPL?

Our new parental leave policy helps make it easier for women to return to work after having a baby, which means we are able to retain these valuable employees.

We currently have one employee who has been recently promoted to a senior position while on maternity leave and we are working with her to prepare for her return to work.

The benefits to other firms of having a good parental leave policy means that women are more likely to stay in the industry and continue their career growth. This will ensure more women can make it into senior roles and lead to greater diversity and creativity in the industry. 

Is the need for PPL a reflection of how far our work intrudes in on our private life or is it a function of how technology has made the work day almost non-ending?

The whole of society has a responsibility to support working families. It’s too difficult for people to work and have a family if society hasn’t provided policies to help support this such as flexible work and childcare rebates etc. The new parental leave policies being implemented in Australia is a reflection of society recognising their role in helping families.

How much PPL would you say would be the perfect mix and who provides that much in Australia?

As most architectural practices are small private companies it can be difficult to manage the costs of the parental leave policy. Multi-national companies would find it easier to spread the costs across the business.

There should be a sliding scale where companies under a certain turnover can receive financial support from the Government up to an agreed amount. We could look towards the Scandinavian countries and strive to achieve a similar standard of parental leave.

What has been the reaction of your employees to your PPL program?

Our parental leave policy has been very well received by the company and our employees, with a number of staff stating it will make a big impact in helping parents juggle work and family. One employee of Crone has already taken the additional 12 weeks paid parental leave, on top of the Government funded 18 weeks.

Another staff member, who was already on maternity leave, is now accessing the KIT days and is finding it much easier to transition back to work in a few months.