As the office manager at a busy central city supermarket, Vanessa’s role includes helping staff members planning to take parental leave. Some are aware that there are government-funded parental leave payments but most know little about how or where to access it, so she is usually the main source of information about what they may be entitled to.
Vanessa provides staff with the appropriate forms, talks through the leave options available to them and helps them plan their parental leave (and tells them to look at all their options including the Best Start payment(external link) before making any decisions).
Some employees take longer than the 22 weeks’ primary carer leave (with the parental leave payments) but most return once their baby is 6 months old. Many employees contact Vanessa about their return to work when their babies are 4 to 5 months old. She has found that their decision to return to work is often based on financial reasons.
When the employee considers returning to work, Vanessa will arrange for a meeting with the employee and the department manager to discuss the options available. They look at how they can arrange work hours to fit the employee’s situation, including childcare needs, or to allow the employee to work while the partner or spouse is at home to care for the baby.
Due to the nature of the work, the organisation experiences a reasonably high turnover in their staff. Vanessa has seen the benefits to the organisation from retaining existing staff and having employees return after parental leave. Employing new staff means retraining, recruitment costs and a period of downtime while the new employee comes to understand the role, whereas returning staff are trained, know the systems and are able to slot straight back into work. Providing flexibility for parents helps retain staff and ensures the organisation gets the benefits.
Peter owns a shop where both male and female employees have taken parental leave in the past. In running a small family-focused business, Peter tries to be as flexible as possible to accommodate his employees’ requests. In each case he has been told early about an employee’s pregnancy so there has been plenty of time to look at various leave options and to make plans for the business to manage over the leave period.
To date, he hasn’t had to employ additional staff to cover the work but he is aware that, as his business is growing, this may be the case in the future.
Peter remains flexible about an employee’s return to work, staying in touch after the birth of the baby and keeping them up-to-date with the business.
He has established a ‘parent’s room’ in a disused storeroom, making it clean and private with sofas and tables which provides employees a space in which to breastfeed, change nappies or store any gear they bring with them to work.
Peter feels that the business has benefited from his flexible approach to employees taking leave as all but one employee has returned to work in the business, retaining skill, experience and adding positively to the workplace culture. He has also found that his employees have been flexible about accommodating the business needs, changing hours or roles when necessary, enabling the business to function smoothly and better respond to customer needs
As a first time mother, pregnant with twins, and the primary earner for her family, Lynne started looking for information on paid parental leave early in her pregnancy. The organisation she worked for had no policy for parental leave. She also made sure she talked to her employer about her pregnancy and leave plans early on. This included planning for hand-over and transition from her role to minimise the effect to the organisation.
Lynne finalised her leave details about a month before she left and made sure she kept in touch with her employer throughout her pregnancy. She worked 25 hours a week and arranged to take a full 12 months’ parental leave (and received parental leave payments for 22 weeks of this) with an option to return on a part-time basis in the second half of that year. As she was having twins, Lynne finished working at the office 29 weeks into her pregnancy (and after her employer agreed), and started working from home part-time to ease into the change. She maintained phone contact with her employer during her parental leave.
Six months after the twins were born, Lynne started working from home on a part-time basis. Her employer was flexible about her return to work and she was able to choose the work she wanted to take on and increased the load gradually. Her employer arranged for meetings to be held by telephone conference or at her home so that Lynne could attend.
Lynne’s employer covered her working from home-related expenses including the cost of phone calls and printer ink, and also provided an administrative support person if she needed them.
Lynne returned to work in the office a year after going on leave, and over time built up her hours of work to her original 25 hours per week. Lynne felt that the flexibility her employer gave her increased her loyalty to her workplace as well as giving her valuable time for her to bond with her children.
Janice employer was flexible with leave arrangements and agreed on parental leave options that would be flexible, including an option to return to work-part-time initially. They decided that they would keep in contact during her leave with monthly phone calls. This helped her employer keep Janice up-to-date with what was happening with the business and let Janice keep her employer up-to-date with her plans to return to work.
One of the key factors Janice considered when planning her return to work was childcare. The crèche needed to be close to her work as she intended to carry on breastfeeding after she returned to work. She also discussed with her manager her intention to continue breastfeeding once she returned to work and arrangements were made to help with this. These included a quiet, private space (screened-off area in the sick room) where she could feed the baby and express milk as required.
When Janice returned to her job, she worked 2 days a week as this was all the childcare she was able to arrange initially. She decided she wanted to keep working part-time hours and have some flexibility so made a request to her employer to do a change to her employment agreement terms and conditions. They discussed the options and came to an agreement that Janice would continue working for 2 days a week for the first 6 months, and then increase to 3 days per week.
Janice’s employment agreement was changed to reflect the new hours of work. She really appreciated her employer’s positive approach and the flexibility offered to her in taking parental leave and on her return to work. In turn, her employers enjoyed the benefit of retaining an experienced staff member.
In the early stages of her pregnancy Carolyn and her partner Robbie discussed sharing parental leave and parental leave payments. They did some research and found that they were both eligible to take extended parental leave of up to 52 weeks (1 year) between them. As the major income earner in the family, Carolyn decided she wanted to go back to work 4 weeks after the birth of the baby and that from then, her partner would be the primary caregiver.
Carolyn and her partner filled in the leave forms for their respective employers, establishing their eligibility and started making plans for sharing the childcare. They then filled out the Inland Revenue forms for parental leave payments (paid parental leave) and requested that 14 weeks of the payments be transferred to Carolyn’s partner.
Carolyn took 2 weeks annual leave before the date her baby was due. However, even with all the best planning in place, Carolyn had to have an emergency caesarean birth and couldn’t return to work at the pre-arranged time.
Fully understanding the situation, Carolyn’s employer organised to have her work covered from the time she was due back. Carolyn informed Inland Revenue of the change in her circumstances and consequently took the full 22 weeks primary carer leave and parental leave payments. Her partner Robbie took 2 weeks’ partner’s leave, then started extended leave when Carolyn returned to work.
Although it was not what they planned, the leave and support from their employers made it possible for Carolyn to fully recuperate before returning to work and eased some of the financial pressure at that time.