Had your baby? Negotiating your return to work after taking parental leave may be your biggest challenge yet says Alison Dutton, Principal Solicitor at Labour Pains Legal; Employment Law Specialists.
It is a sad statistic that, according to a recent study by the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in two working mothers will face discrimination in the workplace at some point. A vast majority of these women will encounter difficulties returning to their pre-parental role, negotiating a flexible working arrangement or will find that their career has stalled because of taking parental leave.
There are steps that women can take in order to minimise or eliminate any potential issues upon returning to work:
1. Start Early
Discuss your return to work with your employer before commencing the period of parental leave. Talk about your plans to return to work on a part-time or flexible basis and, if possible, get something in writing. If you have a meeting or a discussion with your employer, always send a follow-up email saying words to the effect of, “as discussed with you in our meeting of [date], I confirm …”
2. Review Policies
Most companies and larger employers will have flexible working and/or parental leave policies available on their intranet. It doesn’t hurt to have a copy of these with you when you meet with Human Resources to discuss your return to work.
3. Stay in Contact
Employers often ‘forget’ employees on parental leave so make a concerted effort to stay in touch while you are on leave. If possible utilise the ten (10) ‘keeping in touch’ days, which are paid workdays performed with the consent of the employer and can be used to attend conference, training, team meetings or planning days. It keeps you in the loop and ensures you will be consulted about workplace changes as they occur.
4. Be Proactive
While contemplating a return to work might be the last thing on your mind, arranging a meeting two (2) months before the return to work date ensures any issues concerning the facilitation of a flexible working arrangement have an opportunity to be discussed and resolved. Be mindful that if you want to request a flexible working arrangement, an employer has twenty-one (21) days in which to provide you with a written response so make sure you allow plenty of time to do this especially if you anticipate a refusal.
If you request a flexible working arrangement, ensure that your written request contains enough information regarding how this arrangement can best be facilitated. If you can, make useful suggestions that assist the employer rather than have them take the default position that it’s all too difficult and cannot be done. It’s too easy for an employer to refuse to accommodate a written request so be prepared to negotiate.
If your request has been denied and/or you require legal advice on where you stand, please contact us at Labour Pains Legal: Employment Law Specialists. We provide a first free consultation and “no win, no fee” agreements. Further information can be found at our website: www.labourpainslegal.com.au
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