Return to Work Programs

Return to Work Programs

WORK180May 19, 2020

Return to Work Programs are designed to support professionals returning to work after extended leave, often parental leave. In Australia, we know it’s still largely women who take extended leave from work for caring reasons, with 95% of primary parental leave taken by women.

These women have exciting, challenging careers and learn a host of new skills while on parental leave, but mothers’ confidence often takes a bit of a hit on the re-entry transition following parental leave.

WORK180’s Endorsed Employers are committed to ensuring a positive transition so parents feel supported, prepared and part of the team when they come back to work following leave.

Why Does it Matter?

Research out of the UK identified that more than half the mothers surveyed said they no longer had the confidence or feel capable enough to go back to work at the same level of responsibility as before they had children.

Our success measures change when we’re out of the workforce as there are no performance reviews for managing a home or successfully raising children, and there is much less external validation that comes in the form of pay rises, promotions and feedback when we’re at work.

The loss of confidence doesn’t correlate to a loss of ability though, and workplaces do well to bring women back into the office, feeling confident and being productive members of their team as quickly as possible!

Additionally, a diverse range of benefits for parents can go a long way to recruiting and retaining the right people. Top talent know that they can request and secure excellent benefits which includes support in starting and building a family.

Keeping Your Finger on the Pulse

Many companies use Keep in Touch Days, which encourage carers on parental leave to go back into the office, stay up to date as to what is happening and refresh their skills. For example, a manager who’s on leave might come back for the team planning workshop, so they are part of the process and can contribute to the strategic direction.

These days enable workers off on extended leave to remain part of the business and feel like it’s ok to come in for a day here or there and avoid feeling totally disconnected.

Lion have a Lion Cub Keeping in Touch Program, where they host events providing an opportunity for the business to stay connected with team members on extended leave. During Covid they’ve started running the events via Zoom, and have had a number of Senior Leaders showcasing their children of all ages during Zoom meetings to demonstrate authenticity and empathy that a lot of us are having to “work differently” with kids at home.

Flexibility Upon Returning

The days keeping people connected when they’re on leave are valuable, but when it comes to the transition back to work it’s really important employees feel supported. It’s a big change returning to work with a baby at home, there are additional pressures, you’re often tired and the juggle takes a bit of time to settle into.

Port of Brisbane offer flexible work options that may include working from home, flexible hours, job sharing, part-time options, breastfeeding and lactation breaks or flexible meeting schedules. The combination of these options provide parents with additional support in managing their changing schedules and additional pressures in their lives.

BOQ offer a fully-flexible parental leave program, so you can return to work 3 days a week while still taking 2 days a week of parental leave.

The Benefit of Benefits

Treating employees well and maintaining your Employee Value Proposition is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. A big part of that is supporting families, which includes parental leave and flexible work options when people return. Employees are now starting to expect a range of benefits, and the bare minimum doesn’t cut it anymore.

Transgrid are being innovative with their benefits on offer, recently introducing a ‘Share the Care’ option for secondary carers who wish to take up primary care, superannuation top up for those taking unpaid leave, and a coaching program to support parents returning from both primary and secondary care leave. They have also introduced a funding top-up for vacation care for employees' primary-aged children during school holidays.

“We know that women want to be part of a company where both men and women are supported, and where all parents have flexibility at work and access to parental leave benefits,” says Julie Moss, Transgrid’s Diversity and Inclusion Manager.

A diverse range of benefits for parents can go a long way in recruiting and retaining the right people. Listening to feedback and building on this will be key to our goal of continually delivering a positive working environment where everyone can thrive.

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About the author



WORK180 is an international jobs network that connects smart businesses with talented women. We pre-screen every employer on our jobs board to see where they stand on pay equity, flexible working, paid parental leave, equal opportunities and a range of other criteria. We also take into account diversity initiatives focusing on age, ability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The information we uncover is made public on our website, so that everyone knows what to expect from each employer before applying for a job. We continually review and evolve our pre-screening criteria to ensure workplaces are fair and equal for everyone.

To help women find a workplace that will work for them, we prescreen employers on flexible working, pay equity, paid parental leave, and more. Find your next role on the WORK180 job board.

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