Thursday, January 31, 2008

Should the Federal Government pay for parental leave?

With the skills shortage tightening and women accounting for 50% of the workforce, it is fast becoming a national issue to retain skills, experience and expertise in the workplace.

Another important aspect to this debate is the cost of paying parental leave for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs have embraced the challenge of offering flexible and part time roles (as needed by parents) but they find that paying parental leave entitlements is cost prohibitive.

The Federal Government needs to step up to the mark. Parental leave is paid for a finite period of time and it provides the following benefits:
- It improves the wellbeing and health of mothers, infants and children.
- It assists employers by increasing labour market attachment and lowering the cost of turnover and recruitment.
- It reduces the inequities between women in different employment sectors.

Australia and the US are the only OECD countries without a national system of paid parental leave. Ongoing consultation is no longer required. There is evidence in other countries to suggest that a systems of paid parental leave drastically improves work participation rates and productivity.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Flexibility - Common objections and why it is good for business

Are companies making enough effort to offer flexible arrangements?
Across the board, no. However, the national skills shortage is starting to hurt employers and this is creating change. Businesses tend to fall under one of the four following types:
1.A business who pretends that there is no skills shortage.
2.A business that has a comprehensive flexible workplace policy but is not good at communicating it to their employees.
3.A business that wants to offer more flexible working arrangements but doesn't know where to start.
4.A business who is experiencing both business and employee benefits from successfully implementing flexible workplace policies. Some of these businesses include Westpac, St George, Blackmores, IBM Australia, and Acumen Alliance.

What are the main objections of companies to flexible arrangements?
•Some managers equate work flexibility with 'not getting the job done'. There is a siginificant amount of research and case studies to suggest otherwise.
•Larger companies fear that if they do it for one person, a revolution will follow. Rather, it should be viewed on a case-by-case basis.
•Individual managers block the introduction of flexibility because of their own personal views rather than what is right for company.
•People generally resist change.

Do companies always realise the potential of flexible arrangements?
Yes. Once companies make the change and move to a flexible working environment, the benefits flow from an employee and business perspective. EOWA Awards and the DEWR Work and Family Awards showcase companies around the country that are benefiting from flexible workplace policies. Common advantages include:
• reduced absenteeism and staff turnover
• improved productivity
• staff loyalty
• increased trust and respect
• improved ability to attract skilled and motivated employees

What are some tips for companies who are unsure about how to structure flexible workplace arrangements?
- Understand the demographics of your workforce. Do you know if your staff need flexible work arrangements? How is this impacting on your staff turnover?
- Once you have conducted a needs assessment, you will be able to draft a workplace policy on flexible work practices.
- Learn from other businesses who have successfully implemented workplace flexibility. Network and share ideas.
- Senior level management must openly support flexible work arrangements. Ideally, some senior level managers will be working flexibly to demonstrate executive support.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How to choose flexible work arrangements that suit you and work

If you haven’t already organised how you will return to work flexibly, now is a good time to start thinking about. You have probably settled into your new life as a family and you are starting to think about returning to work at some stage. Negotiating a flexible return to work is a fantastic way for you to cope with the balancing act. The following factors will impact on the choices you make in negotiating flexibility:
•The cost of child care;
•The location of your child care;
•The logistics of drop-off and pick-up;
•The type of work you perform.

Talk to your human resources department about flexible workplace policies available to you. Examples of flexible arrangements that may be available to you include:
Job sharing – is an arrangement where two or more people share one full time job, each working part time on a regular basis. It may be viable when part time work is not an option. Job sharing can be adapted to a variety of circumstances, because arrangements are individually designed to suit the needs of the organisation, the job sharers, and the nature of the job.
Part time – is an arrangement where you work less hours than full time ordinary hours. For example, this may include a reduced number of days per week or more flexible hours (e.g. school hours) every day of the week. You are still entitled to employment entitlements such as sick leave and annual leave on a pro-rata basis.
Work-from-home arrangements – is an arrangement where you may be able to work-from-home for part of the working week depending on the nature of your work. Working from home is always a very attractive option for most parents. However, the following issues should be considered:
- Working from home does not take the place of child care.
- Working from home requires discipline, focus, and the ability to deflect distractions.
- There are significant health benefits when you work in an office such as social interaction and team work.
- Are you set up to work from home? Your home office should include a fax, computer, printer, telephone, desk and chair.

The next step is to assess your duties, tasks and responsibilities. By working flexibly, will some aspects of your job be neglected? Where are the gaps? Do you have any solutions? Will your team be happy with your proposal to work flexibly? Will some members of your team have to take on more work?

The key to negotiating flexibility is to be considerate of all parties that will be impacted. You will need to consider the implications on the business, your customers, and your team. If you acknowledge these implications and propose a solution, your business case will be more credible and well received.
Ask your human resources department for a business case template so you address all relevant issues.

Sit down with your manager and discuss your options to work flexibly. Ensure that you seek agreement before returning to work.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What can you do to effectively prepare yourself to return to the workforce?

Returning to work can be a daunting experience for many parents. We tend to lose our self confidence and the ‘mother guilt’ takes a hold. Everyone experiences it. But the upside is that most parents who have returned to work love it. We ask mums all the time what they did to ensure a successful transition back to work. Finding good child care is the most important task. It makes sense – if your child is happy and enjoying their time away from you, you will be more confident in leaving them for the day. Secondly, consider your flexibility requirements. Do you want to work part time? If you are returning to the same employer, make sure you have the discussion at least a few months before your return to work. Ideally you should have spoken to your employer before starting maternity leave. Australia is experiencing a skills shortage, so make sure you negotiate a flexible return to work if you want to. Thirdly, ensure that you and your partner talk about sharing responsibilities. For example, who will do drop off and pick up? Who is responsible for cooking each night of the week? Finally, focus on your career to date. Is your resume updated? If you have been out of the workforce for over a year, do you need to get up to speed on changes in your industry? Have lunch with your work colleagues. Attend some team meetings in the lead up to your return to work. This will help you feel more self confident.

What can you do to improve your chances of securing employment?

Be clear about your flexibility requirements and demonstrate how your skills and experience is suitable to the job being advertised. Also, know how much you are worth. Unfortunately, many women will accept a reduced salary because they are grateful for the opportunity to return to work. No! Your career to date and the challenges of parenthood should be acknowledged in your remuneration. If you have been out of the workplace for a while, consider doing volunteer work to re-engage with the workplace on a non-paid basis. This will build your self-confidence and re-activate your work skills.

What are the alternatives to child care and what questions do I need to ask?

The most common types of child care in Australia include private arrangements (e.g. family), family day care, centre based childcare or long day care, occasional care, pre-school, nannies, au pairs, babysitters, and in home care. Whatever you choose for your child, you must feel comfortable with your decision. Choosing childcare for your baby can be one of the most important decisions you make as a new parent. Therefore, it is important that you thoroughly research your available options. Try discussing the types of childcare you may prefer (and can afford) with your partner or family, as well as what might suit your family’s needs (and that of your baby). Whoever you choose to care for your child, you must feel comfortable with your decision. The primary goal for most parents is that their child will be cared for in a nurturing, safe and stimulating environment. Planning is the key to a successful placement and you should start this planning well in advance of you needing the care. Many childcare centres and Family Day Care schemes have long waiting lists, and other options such as selecting a nanny can be very time consuming.

Visiting and talking to the carers will be your best chance of finding the perfect place for your child. If possible try to drop into the centre or Family Day care home outside of your appointment time so that you can see how things “really” work and try to visit at a couple of different times of the day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you’re entrusting these people with your baby. For example, ask to see the meal prepared for that day, take a look at the nappy change area and assess its cleanliness, ask to see the baby’s sleep area, ask questions about how the staff would respond to a specific first aid or a safety situation.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How to re-create yourself professionally as a working parent

The idea of a career change after having children is a popular idea among return to work parents. It may be because your existing workplace is inflexible, you want to work from home, you are dissatisfied with a less senior part time role, or you no longer wish to do what you have been doing for the last 10 years.

A career change can mark the start of an exciting new chapter in your professional life, but to get to that point you need to plan and address the who, what, why and how. What have you been doing up until now? What skills have you picked up along the way? How can you transfer your skills and adapt to a new environment? Often the answers lie in your resume – assuming you have kept it up to date.

Have a chat to your current or previous employer about your intentions and ask them for their opinion. You should also consider doing a short course on the industry you would like to move into. This will give you an insight into the typical processes, procedures, and lingo that you need to become familiar with.

As long as you have the core skill base required to make a career change, you can do anything. Becoming a parent is the ultimate life change, so a career change will be achievable.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

How to write an effective job advertisement

Just as a resume can play a critical role in securing a job interview, a well-written job advertisement can make a huge difference in attracting great candidates. Every day I watch new jobs being posted on CareerMums, and I can tell which job advertisements will be successful or not.

The national skills shortage is providing skilled job seekers with many job opportunities so it is important to make sure that every job you advertise is a sales pitch for your business.

To access my top 6 tips for writing an effective job advertisement, copy and paste the following URL into your browser: