While laws surrounding maternity leave have come a long way in the past 50 years, there is still a fair distance to go with quite a few employers still getting away with poor practices. Parke Lawyers Managing Director Jim Parke has called for more proactive legislation around parental provisions for employers to follow.
Regulators need to act now to ensure the legislation is brought up to date and parental leave provisions are made foolproof so that employers are not tempted to do the wrong thing.
Mr Parke said among the provisions that could be considered is a no redundancy clause that applies for a certain time after the maternity leave period.
The birth of a baby is one of life’s most special moments but this can be soured by difficulties parents face in returning to the workforce.
The last thing a new mum needs is the anxiety of not knowing if her job is still there when she returns to work but far too often the current laws are being flaunted by inconsiderate employers.
Under the Fair Work Act, employees who have been employed for at least one year are allowed to take up to 12 months of unpaid leave from their job to care for their child.
The legislation stipulates that employers must advise any replacement employee of the rights of the parent who is taking the unpaid leave.
While the right of an employee to take maternity leave and then return to work without fear of being dismissed is enshrined in legislation, Mr Parke says that there are still flaws in the legislation that need to be tightened by regulators.
This return to work guarantee provides that after parental leave, an employee is able to return to their previous role.
If that role no longer exists, the employee is entitled to an available role for which they are qualified. This role must be nearest in pay and status to the former role.
Far too often we see that there is no available position that fits those criteria and the employee then finds that she is to be made redundant.
While parental leave is open to all employees who meet the criteria, mothers remain more likely to take significant periods of leave than male employees and are at greater risk of being disadvantaged by loopholes.
It is little wonder that these days more female employees are delaying having babies until later in life owing to employment fears while they are on maternity leave. Employers who ensure that they comply with legal requirements, respond supportively to parental leave requests and seek competent employment law advice to avoid non-compliance can benefit from increased employee engagement and recognition as family-friendly employers.”