Navigating motherhood is a key challenge for women in the workplace. Having children is perceived to result in cases of discrimination, pay inequality, lack of career progression, and less superannuation than men upon retirement. In fact, 42% of women fear the impact that starting a family will have on their career. While laws and perceptions of women in the workplace are changing, employers can actively support women when it comes to having children and maintaining their career.

Female employees are invaluable in the mortgage broking and banking sector. As an industry, and as employers, we need to be better at helping them sustain successful careers whilst also fulfilling their needs as mothers.

In this article, we look at how you can support your female employees through maternity leave and returning to work, so they’re empowered to successfully maintain a rewarding career.

Adhere to your legal obligations

Paying maternity leave

The Australian Government’s Paid Parental Scheme entitles eligible employees to receive up to 18 weeks of paid parental leave at the national minimum wage. This applies to your employees who meets these requirements:

  • Have worked with you for at least 12 months prior to the expected date of birth or adoption
  • Plan to return to work with you after the birth or adoption
  • Earn less than $150,000
  • Live in Australia
  • Are expected to take at least eight weeks of leave before returning to work.

This paid leave is funded by the Government, but will usually be paid directly to you to then pay into your employee’s account. To get the payments underway, your employee will apply for paid parental leave, and you’ll need to register through Centrelink to pay them.

Some employers also opt to pay additional maternity leave on top of what the Government provides. This is completely up to you as a business owner, but can be a further incentive for women to return to work after pregnancy.

Guaranteeing a job to return to

The Australian Government also stipulates that employees must be able to return to the same position they held prior to taking maternity leave. Many employers plan for this in advance by rearranging the team’s duties during this time, or hiring a maternity leave contractor to cover the position. In cases where the employee’s position no longer exists (due to a restructure or similar), you must ensure that your employee is placed in a role of equal stature and salary.

Offering necessary facilities

Not providing a safe, comfortable space for women to express in is considered discrimination. It’s important that you chat to your employee about her needs, and offer a space in which she can pump breast milk when needed.

Provide additional support

Just because the Government has outlined the minimum requirements for employers, doesn’t mean you’re limited to this. We highly encourage you to go beyond your legal obligations and further support your female employees. Offering additional support can encourage your employees to come back to work sooner and continue providing immense value to your business.

This is where you could offer additional parental leave pay, built into your employee contracts and internal policies. Other things you can do include:

  • Offer extended paid leave
  • Continue paying superannuation during maternity leave
  • Offer a return-to-work bonus
  • Have an internal maternity leave policy.

You can also consider supporting your female employees by offering flexible work arrangements, to ease them back into work after having a baby.

Flexible hours

Flexible working hours can do wonders for new mothers. By being freed up to work around their new schedule, it’s much easier for them to transition into life with a baby. This may involve setting work hours around daycare drop-off and pick-up times. You could even allow them to drop their hours down to part time for a period so they can settle into parenthood while still contributing to the business.

Work from home opportunities

In some cases, you may be able to offer your employees the chance to work from home occasionally. This can allow new mothers to complete more work in a comfortable environment, without having to commute into work. We see this happen a lot in the mortgage broking industry, and working from home arrangements are becoming more popular across all workplaces. Trusting your employees to complete their work from home not only helps them maintain their lifestyle, it also instils trust into your work culture.

Encourage open communication

One of the most important aspects of supporting your employees in taking maternity leave is to encourage open and honest communication. Try to start the conversation as early as you can.

Women may be worried about discussing their maternity leave with you, for fear of being discriminated against or treated differently. It’s important that you reassure them that they’re safe, valued and will be supported throughout the process.

Make your company’s policies clear, and consider collecting a bank of maternity leave resources which you can share with your employees when needed. The Department of Human Services offers some useful information you can use.

Consider your paternity leave policies too

A key reason that women often need to take so much time off for the birth of a child is that there aren’t generally options available for men to take leave when starting a family. Women are increasingly choosing to return to work earlier, while men are opting to become stay at home parents. It’s important that people are enabled to make these decisions, with appropriate policies and support in place.

While the Government’s Paid Parental Scheme offers two weeks of minimum pay for new fathers or partners, you can take it one step further by offering your male employees the opportunity to take more paid leave. Not only will this further incentivise your own employees, but it will help in abolishing the concept of women as primary caregivers.

Business can’t stop when your employees takes maternity leave. However, there are ways you can plan your resourcing effectively to ensure they are respected, treated fairly and taken care of when starting a family. At Platinum People Group, we’re passionate about helping women succeed in the financial services space, and we’d love to talk to you more about how your business can support women. Get in touch for a free, no-obligation chat. Or if you’re a female employee looking to find a supportive workplace in which to grow your career, irrespective of your plans to start a family, please reach out.

Hopefully this has given you a brief look into what it’s like working with a recruitment agency like Platinum People Group. You can learn more about the experience by checking out our client and candidate testimonials. If your question hasn’t been answered here, please get in touch to learn more.