WORK: Are flexible parental leave policies the future?

06 March 2019

Increases in technology and an enhanced focus on overall well-being have helped make the concept of working from home become less and less taboo, which is fantastic news for mums and dads who want to return to work after having a child.

In a display of just how valued such flexible work arrangements are, thousands of polled Australians said they would be willing take a pay cut to work from home. And the number of those taking care of business outside of the office is rising, with analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers showing that nearly 3.5 million Australians work from home regularly.

It’s clear that the standard 9-5 work day of going into the office and punching the clock is becoming more and more a thing of the past, which can only help when it comes to flexible parental leave policies going forward.

How workplaces can better help parents returning to work after having a child

According to the Real Insurance 2018 study on working parents, parents who have had children and are looking to return to work after leave think workplaces can do several things to help make the transition smoother for all involved, including:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Allowing regular work from home
  • Offer subsidised childcare services

In addition to all of this, 54 per cent would like companies to offer more parental leave.

Flexible work options can help both new parents and employers

No missed milestones

While many parents treasure every day they’re with their children, there are some memorable moments that stand out above the rest. Key benchmarks are momentous occasions in a family’s life, and to miss those while at the office can be absolutely heartbreaking for mums and dads.

According to the Real Insurance study, a majority of parents feel guilty about missing their child’s first words (81%), first steps (81%) and first school award (57%).

But there are things that can be done to avoid missing these magical moments. Those who took part in the study said they are working part-time, arriving at work later and leaving work earlier in order to avoid missing these key memories.

Keeping guilt and stress from clouding the minds of workers benefits not only new mums and dads, but also colleagues and employers who are getting a more focussed effort from returning parents.

Less stress and higher levels of happiness

Flexible work arrangements are permeating cultures around the world, many times with positive results. For example, a trial of more flexible working hours in Copenhagen reported overwhelmingly positive results in regards to stress and work-life balance.

Those who have had a child know that stress levels and work-life balance can become quite off-kilter when a new child enters the equation. Mums and dads going back to their professional lives say they experience a range of emotions. The Real Insurance numbers indicate that 45% feel stressed, 42% feel guilty and 18% feel resentful upon re-entering the workforce.

Flexible work options can help eliminate these feelings. Compromises such as part-time hours and working from home when necessary can lead to increased, enhanced output from workers.

Give it a go

Flexible leave policies, including those for new parents, have tremendous benefits for working and employers alike. There are plenty of reasons companies should at least test flexible policies, especially when it comes to parental leave and new parents returning to work after having a child.

Whether you are still enjoying your time at home with the little one or have already returned to work, consider talking to your employer about work arrangements that are beneficial for both you and the company for which you work. With the way flexible work and parental leave policies are trending, the coming years will hopefully be kind to new parents when it comes to work.

Written by

Kids on the Coast/Kids in the City
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