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Becoming a parent is a very challenging time in an individual’s life and parental leave plays an important role in helping employees manage their transition out and back into work. However, most organisations seem to view parental leave merely as an employee entitlement rather than a strategic tactic to attract talent.

It is widely recognised that the best parental leave policies are those that benefit both employees and employers. These policies acknowledge the importance of parental and family responsibilities and clearly set out expectations to help an employee achieve work-life balance. For the employer, good parental leave policies ensure that their employees feel valued and are more inclined to remain connected to their workplace. These policies can also accomplish a lot more than that – they can be used for talent acquisition and employer branding.

Most organisations overlook the importance of having a great parental leave policy.

However, there are not many organisations in Australia who put emphasis into creating a parental leave policy with a focus on attracting talent. Most are quite prescriptive when designing their programs and don’t see it as a tactic for talent attraction.

In my opinion, these organisations are missing out on a great opportunity to enhance their employer brand by failing to tap into the full potential of their parental leave policies. They do not see the bigger picture in how a great program can enable them to attract talented employees and build up their reputation as an employer of choice.

At oOh!Media, we pride ourselves on challenging this norm and we aim to be positively different. This applies to how we do business but it is also inherent in our culture and people practices. Consequently, we are highly focused on ensuring our policies help us to attract and retain talent.

So we revamped our parental leave policy. We wanted to create a policy that will have a positive impact on and help to attract, retain and promote our best female talent. We believe that the right benefits would enable these employees to be more loyal, satisfied and productive and would also demonstrate to both current and future employees that we truly are a family-friendly employer where they can build a career long term.

So after many conversations and multiple reviews, we submitted a proposal to our Senior Management Team and the Board that was subsequently passed into action.

Some highlights of our new primary carer parental leave include:

  • 8 weeks paid parental leave – either 8 weeks’ full pay or 16 weeks half pay
  • Return to work bonus – 2 weeks’ pay based on “pre-parental leave” ordinary hours (after a minimum of 6 months leave)
  • 2 bonus weeks annual leave – granted 3 months after return to work (because time with your family is so precious whilst annual leave is normally in short supply)
  • “Keep in Touch” programme to maintain business connection, networks and support
  • $1,000 worth of vouchers to cover dinner, cleaning or babysitting (all the new baby support essentials!)

Non- primary carers receive paid leave of one week.

Not surprisingly this has been incredibly well received.

How to create a world class parental leave policy that will attract the best talent.

So if you are looking at redesigning or creating a new parental leave policy, here are four tips to help you get started:

  1. Research – do your research, understand what your competitors (for talent) are offering and what elements you want to ‘win’ on.
  2. Be generous – making your policy more generous really does have an impact if your aim is to attract and retain top talent.
  3. What is the focus? – focus on the benefits – becoming a parent is the biggest adventure for any individual, so think about how you can support this transition for your employees. For us, it was giving our employees vouchers for things like cleaning or dinner so they can focus on being new parents.
  4. Garner support – make sure there is support from senior managers – both for the policy and practice. Rather than worrying about lost productivity while employees are out on leave, it is putting a focus on retaining great employees for the long term.

By going that extra mile and providing your employees that bit more care, concern and connection, you can allow them to become great parents and great employees.

This is something they will be very appreciative for and it will definitely help to enhance your organisation’s reputation as an employer who champions great family values.

Article first appeared on ATC Hub.