Employee Parent's Booklet

Parents & Work

Working Dad with his young infant making the most from an afternoon off from work, to have fun with his daughter.
Working Dad with his young infant making the most from an afternoon off from work, to have fun with his daughter.

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What is an Employee Parent's Booklet?

A Parent's Booklet in the workplace is a useful communication tool that is advantageous for both employers, line managers, parents and parents to be. Employees want useful information which will help them to manage their work and home life balance. Line managers need to be aware of policies which provide them with consistent direction.

Parents with young children will especially want to know the business' policies towards parental and carer's leave. Knowing what an organisation's policies are ahead of time can help an employee to plan, prepare and communicate any sudden changes in family circumstances to minimise lost work time and productivity.

The information contained in a Parent's Booklet is not only useful for parents in your workplace, but also for line managers. Line managers need to be fully aware of the organisation's policies as these provide a direction to the line manager of the organisation's expectations. A line manager should know the guidelines for handling parental leave or whether flexible working conditions are an opportunity with the organisation.

Organisations who look to their values when creating policies are more likely to benefit from well balanced and communicated directions in an Employee Parent's Booklet. Those organisations that offer additional benefits to parents, can attract a larger pool of candidates, with a wealth of experience and knowledge, who may otherwise not apply if the organisation policies are restrictive or do not a match with their own personal values.

The information contained in a Parent's Booklet can be presented in a few varying formats. It may be included in an Employee Manual which is provided to all employees at the commencement of their employment. It could also be presented as a separate booklet provided specifically to employees who are parents. Unless you are working for a small business, identifying parents in your workplace may be difficult. Many organisations are now using employee intranets or extranets to provide up to date and relevant information for all employees including parents.

What to Include in a Parent's Booklet?

Here are some topics to consider including in a Parent's Booklet:

Paternity leave policy. (Also known as Maternity leave.) Some countries may have special paternity leave conditions tied into State or Federal awards or general conditions of employment, as they do in Australia. Employees may need to meet certain criteria to be eligible to take Paternity leave, that organisations must adhere to as a minimum. While this information may be common knowledge to the Human Resources department, it may not be as well known by employees or line managers. This information would include:

  • the time period for when notice of intention to take leave needs to be given by the employee. Information pertaining to the process for "notice of leave" and "notice of intention to return to work" needs to be set out clearly and concisely. How much time prior to taking the leave do your employees need to give? Who should the notice be addressed to and what should they do if leave plans change (e.g. having to leave earlier than intended due to an early birth or other complications).
  • the minimum and maximum length of time that can be taken for parental leave
  • whether an employee is eligible. Casual employees may be excluded as there is usually no expectation of ongoing employment and employees who haven't worked at the organisation for longer than 6 months may also be excluded.
  • any provisions outside the norm. While parental leave is traditionally provided to an expecting mother, you might decided to reward your expecting fathers with a day or two of paid leave to spend with their new family.

Family or Parental leave policy. In Australia, a Family Leave Policy is the usual description provided for absences due to school interviews, children's illness or special events that may require a parent to be absent from work. This policy would advise the employee of which circumstances are eligible for paid or unpaid leave and whether the leave is deducted from the employee's accrued sick leave or annual leave.

Mothers' Breast Feeding Room. If you want your employees to return to work earlier then their requested leave time, especially if their contribution to the organisation is invaluable, one way to encourage an early return to work, is to provide a Mothers' Breast Feeding room. For parents who don't have the luxury of an onsite day care centre at work, having to express pump milk and get their precious baby food home in the best condition from work, can be a challenge. The location of the room should provide privacy and a relaxing environment in which the breast feeding mother can relax. Mums who choose to pump will also need to have access to a freezer where they can store their milk until its home time. If this is not a compulsory requirement under your laws, you may want to consider adding this provision to make your organisation more appealing for prospective employees, especially to Mums.

Work from Home Arrangements. For administrative and management positions it may be possible for your employee to work from home. This is useful when a parent may be absent for long periods of up to a week or more, especially where a child may have a contagious illness which prevents them from attending day care.Trusting that your employee is still able to complete the work from home, is a major consideration of this arrangement. You may also need to consider:

  • Workplace Health & Safety conditions at your Employee's residence.
  • Remote access to your organisation's servers, including security access and whether the employee has appropriate virus and fire wall protection on the computer they are using at home.

If the child is considerably ill the parent's time during normal working hours may be limited as they care for the ill child. A parent working from home may only able to connect or communicate with the organisation at times when the child is sleeping.


A Very Pregnant Working Mother

A very pregnant working Mum at 36 weeks with edema and pregnancy diabetes, showing off her 'egg'.  Special concessions were provided by the employer in regards to the uniform policy, including pants and shoes as well as flexible working arrangements.
A very pregnant working Mum at 36 weeks with edema and pregnancy diabetes, showing off her 'egg'. Special concessions were provided by the employer in regards to the uniform policy, including pants and shoes as well as flexible working arrangements.

Flexible work arrangements. Expecting mothers and fathers may need some time off during working hours to attend medical appointments prior to the birth of a new child. Flexible work arrangements such as starting earlier, finishing later or making up time on another agreed upon day can help ease the stress on parents to be who may have long waiting lines at hospitals or special clinics.

An organisation that promotes itself as a family friendly employer should also consider providing flexible work arrangements for parents with children, especially where there is a need to pick up a child from a minder by a certain time, or an afternoon where a parent is interested in taking their child to extra-curricular activities, such as sports or music lessons.

Uniform policy. If your organisation provides your employees with a uniform, expecting mothers may require new uniforms as their pregnancy develops. If you are not able to provide a uniform you should provide an alternative dress code for an expecting mother. Suitable shoes should also be considered particularly if the mother to be suffers from edema and is no longer able to wear their normal shoe size. Would thongs (also known as flip flops) be suitable in your work environment?

Change of duties or environment. An employer may be required to make changes to the duties and the working environment of the expecting mother. If there is heavy lifting or another type of duty which could endanger the unborn baby then both the parent and the employer have a duty of care to the unborn child. Providing the employee with alternative duties may be necessary. Where an expecting mother is normally required to stand during their working shift, providing a stool may be an appropriate safety measure.

Children in the workplace. Depending on the type of work space it may not be possible for a parent to bring a child with them to work, especially if there is dangerous or heavy machinery being used. A workplace health & safety risk assessment may be required. However, if there is no workplace health and safety risks identified, you may want to clearly define a policy on the expected behaviour of both child and parent in the workplace. Where the child or care of the child constantly interrupts the parent and other employees it may be more pertinent for the parent to take Family leave.

If you are seeking to attract employees to your organisation, you may want to consider holding "Bring Your Child to Work" days once or twice throughout the year, which could coincide with school holidays or pupil free days. Again working conditions need to be a major consideration before implementing this practice. "Bring Your Child to Work" days can help children establish and grow an appreciation for their parents work and work place, while showing employees that their Employer really does care.


Ability to work from home

Giving expectant mums the ability to work from home (where the job allows) can keep expectant mums in the workforce longer where health considerations might keep them home.
Giving expectant mums the ability to work from home (where the job allows) can keep expectant mums in the workforce longer where health considerations might keep them home.

Idea's for organisations that promote family values

If your organisation is seeking to attract high calibre employees with similar values, especially those values centred on family and caring, then you may want to adopt one or more of the idea's below and include this information in your Employee Parent's Booklet. This information can provide added value to the employee's benefit for working at your organisation.

Information on local childcare centres. This information can be useful if your organisation does not have onsite, work sponsored childcare available. Including contact details, ratings by other employees, distance from the work place and opening and closing times of the childcare centre can go along way to helping an expecting parent find a suitable childcare centre and remove some of the stress involved in registering an unborn child for a future registration, especially if the child care centres in your area have waiting lists.

Family friendly social events. In many work places, the social culture is often designed for young party going employees, with drinks after work at the end of the week, or a big end of the year party at a local nightclub. These often work sponsored events can restrict parents from participating in the social culture, which instead of fostering a team friendly spirit can lead to division between those employees with children and those with out. Consider balancing your social work calendar with family friendly social events. Car rallies, week-end BBQ's, picnics in the park with the old familiar game of tug-of-war or even a tour to a museum or space observatory, where parents can choose to bring their family along, can help balance your social culture and bring together your organisation's team as one team.

Parenting social groups in the workplace. If you're a family friendly organisation, encouraging the parents in your workplace to socialise, may open up new support networks for your employees and their children. Employees can swap advice and recommendations on short term carers, especially carers whose daily expense does not cost more than the cost of actually going to work.

Family discounts. Providing your employees whether they are parents or not with discounts from within your own business, or with local businesses with whom you have established reciprocal business relationships, can go along way to adding value to the employer and employee relationship. You may want to include a list of these organisations that provide your employee's with discounts for purchasing items or services that are maternity or family related.

Parental Leave and Other Embarrassments

Organisations that embrace family values

For an employer that embraces family values, providing information on the organisation's policies, legal requirements and other handy information can add value to an employment relationship. The above benefits to parents in the work place can either be included as part of an orientation handbook or as a separate Employee Parent's Booklet.

The information that an organisation makes easily accessible to an employee who is either a parent or planning to become a parent, will bring your organisation a step closer towards creating a stronger and respected human resource practice and will help to alleviate some of the stress or concerns of an expecting parent.

An organisation that delivers on its values by caring about customers and by caring for its employees, will create a happier and productive working environment, gaining loyal employees. Happy employees makes for happy customers, strengthening the employer's brand and reputation within their community.

This post was inspired by a Australian Human Resources Institute of Australia Groups discussion on LinkedIn. The question was raised as to what information should an employer include, in a booklet directed at parents returning to work, and those about to go on paternity leave?

Do you have other ideas or information to add to the above? Please leave your comments below..

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