Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What are your obligations at work when you are pregnant?

You need to inform your employer of your intention to take parental leave. Specific requirements for doing this vary between states, agreements and awards. It is therefore important to confirm the procedure in your workplace. Regardless of the legal requirement, the earlier you provide the notice, the more time you and your manager have to plan the transition.

As a guide, you are required, approximately 10 weeks prior to the expected birth, to notify your employer in writing of your intention to take maternity / paternity leave.

At this stage you also need to confirm how long you plan to take (up to a maximum of 52 weeks) leave.

Discuss your required leave period with your manager once you have provided formal notification – you may change your mind after your child is born.

What information should you receive when you announce your pregnancy?

As part of sound management practice, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission recommends that managers should consider providing information to all staff on:

•Any pregnancy and parental leave rights and obligations applying at the workplace under an award or agreement.

•The legal right to unpaid maternity leave at the time of employment, including:
-the qualifying period of employment for an employee to access maternity leave
-the need for the employee to provide notice of an intention to take parental leave, and a medical certificate indicating the estimated date of birth
-the maximum duration of maternity leave
-whether leave is paid or unpaid
-that the employee is entitled to take part or all of any accrued annual leave or long service leave instead of, or in conjunction with, unpaid or paid maternity leave
-notification requirements and processes if the employee wants to extend maternity leave
-the right of the employee to return to her former position following maternity leave
-the necessary processes if the employee wants to vary hours on return to work
-information on complaint or grievance procedures if an employee feels that discrimination has occurred.

•Any workplace specific occupational health and safety considerations for pregnant women.

•The employer’s commitment to a non-discriminatory workplace.

What are your entitlements as a parent returning to work?

It is important to seek out the most recent and relevant information regarding your entitlements. Some of the key points from the current legislation include:

•The Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard provides for a maximum of 52 weeks of unpaid parental leave.

•Parental leave can be taken as maternity, paternity or adoption leave.

•Parental leave provisions apply to full-time, part-time and casual employees.

•To be eligible for parental leave, an employee must have been employed for a minimum of 12 months continuous service prior to the expected date of the child’s birth unless your employer is prepared to waive this qualifying period.

•To be eligible for paternity or adoption leave, the employee must have a minimum of 12 months continuous service at the time the leave is to commence unless your employer is prepared to waive this qualifying period.

•If a medical certificate is provided stating that a pregnant employee is fit to work but is unable to continue in her present position, she is entitled to be transferred to a safe job.

•When returning to work from parental leave an employee is entitled to return to the position they held prior to going on leave or to a new position if they have been promoted or have accepted a new position.

•If the employee’s former position no longer exists and the employee is qualified and able to work for their employer in another position, then the employee is entitled to work in another position for their employer.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Returning to Earning - a Victorian Government Initiative

The Returning to Earning program is a Victorian State Government initiative which provides support to parents to return to work after an absence caring for children. Grants of up to $1000 are available which can be used to cover any costs associated with approved training, such as books and materials, course fees, transport and childcare.

To be eligible Victorian parents must have been absent from education, accredited training and the workforce for over two years while caring for children, currently unemployed and have not worked for more than four months full time, or equivalent part-time, in the last two years.

If you don’t live in Victorian, why not contact your local member of parliament to make this type of grant available nationally.

For further details and eligibility criteria visit: www.parentsreturntowork.net.au or phone 1 300 303 413.

For further information about using a Returning to Earning grant at Box Hill Institute’s contact Kerry Barrett, coordinator - Employment Services (03) 9286 9761.

Productivity Commission investigation into paid parental leave

The Productivity Commission is carrying out a public inquiry into the economic and social costs and benefits of parental leave. It is looking at what is currently provided by Australian employers, and will seek to identify models of parental leave that could be used in Australia. It will examine which elements of these models, or combination of elements, may be suited to Australia, and why.

The Commission has prepared an Issues Paper to guide participants in areas it believes need to be addressed. It has also prepared a Personal Feedback Paper to elicit personal perspectives from individuals and small businesses so have your say. Both are available from its website.

The Commission encourages participants to make submissions on any issue raised in these papers or on any other issues they see as relevant. A first round of public hearings will be held in May, initial submissions are due in June, and a draft report will be released for comment in September. Details are at http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiry/parentalsupport.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Job sharing a flexible option for full time roles

Job sharing is certainly being considered and implemented more as the skills shortage tightens. Not all roles can be part time, so when there is a tight labour market and a strong demand for work flexibility, it is a viable solution to keeping the role on in a full time capacity.

Is it popular? Not at the moment. Organisations may specify job share as one alternative in offering flexible work arrangements in their workplace policy, but it does not always equate to actual work practices. Generally, managers are not equipped to manage flexible work arrangements. Job share success stories tend to generate from the actual employees who approach their manager with a business case to work in a job share role.

The potential for job share roles to become more common in organisations is enormous. They key to a successful job share arrangement is good communication between both employees, a period of cross-over, and a similar level of skills and experience. If organisations kept an internal database of candidates (current employees) who require work flexibility, they will potentially be more successful at matching a strong job share partnership. This way, the organisation can retain knowledge, skills and expertise. Furthermore, the employee’s flexibility needs are met, the role is still classified as full time, and the organisation saves on recruitment costs.

Start building your business case.