Did you know that as many as one in two women experience discrimination in the workplace related to pregnancy, parental leave or returning to work from leave?
As do one in four men. These were the alarming findings from an Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) National Review into working parents completed last year.
Unsurprisingly, the AHRC found that this discrimination can lead to enormous problems for employers, including “higher absenteeism, lower productivity, higher staff turnover, subsequent recruitment and training costs, as well as reputational damage”.
But there is a silver lining. The review concluded that many employers are eager to change things for the better but lack the information and support to make such a transformation possible.
Out of this has come a fantastic online resource called Supporting Working Parents. It’s a Commonwealth Government initiative aimed at giving employers in all sectors both practical advice and a clear understanding of the many benefits that come from properly supporting staff who are, or are about to become, parents.
With a strong emphasis on working mothers, the online toolkit promises to be a particularly valuable resource for not-for-profit organisations – given more than 80% of the community sector workforce is made up of women.
So what does the website cover?
Supporting Working Parents is also excellent because it translates complex (but important) information into an accessible, easy-to-follow format.
Some of the areas it covers are:
- Understanding the legal framework – gives an overview of laws such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and federal, state and territory work health and safety legislation. Whilst these laws are necessarily complex and lengthy, the website sets out the relevant parts of the Acts in such a way that they’re digestible and easy to work through, so you can check your legal compliance quickly and effectively.
- Pregnant employees – looks at ways you can create a positive change around pregnant employees in your workplace and addresses commonly asked questions such as “Can I ask an employee if she is pregnant?” and “What if a job is not safe for a pregnant employee?”
- Employees and leave – a useful guide to parental leave that covers both mothers and partners. It looks at questions like “How much unpaid leave are partners entitled to?” and “How should I keep in touch with employees on leave?”
- Employees returning to work from leave – looks at the flexibility that will be required by most employees coming back to your workplace after parental leave. It covers topics like part-time work arrangements, breastfeeding and flexible work requests.
- Commencing and ending employment – goes to the very heart of discrimination based on pregnancy and family responsibilities. It looks at selecting candidates or making positions redundant where pregnancy/parenting is involved, and is closely related to anti-discrimination laws. Ensuring that you’re fully aware of your legal and compliance responsibilities in this regard is a must.
You can see the full Supporting Working Parents resource, including downloadable tools and checklists, here: https://www.supportingworkingparents.gov.au/
How does your organisation approach the challenge of supporting soon-to-be parents or parents returning from work? Please share any secrets with our community below!
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