Every year, tens of thousands of new mothers in the UK are forced to give up their jobs due to issues largely relating to both employers’ and employees’ understanding (or lack thereof) of parental statutory rights and maternity leave.
This number isn’t hard to believe when you realise that new mothers encounter significant problems when requesting time off and flexible working, and that 16% of employers feel maternity leave is too difficult to implement.
It seems that parents are receiving a fair amount of misinformation, too – about 21% of employed mothers believe they are only entitled to 39 weeks of statutory paid maternity leave, despite being entitled to an extended maternity leave of up to 52 weeks, and fathers who choose not to take paternity leave tend to do so because they don’t think they can afford to take the time off, even though they’re entitled to pay during that time.
On top of this, almost half of all pregnant women in the UK are disadvantaged in some way simply for being pregnant or taking maternity leave, and around 7% of those women (30,000 people!) lose their jobs as a direct result of their pregnancy. Discrimination due to pregnancy or parenthood status is illegal, and yet this sort of thing continues to happen every day.
The main reasons that employers give for not complying with the law, whether unintentionally or otherwise, seem to be the costs and difficulties associated with planning and organising work or cover for employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave, as well as a general lack of knowledge or understanding of maternity rights.
It’s no surprise, then, that there is such a stigma attached to parental leave – the complexity of the process itself seems to be a significant contributing factor to employers’ reluctance to allow certain types of parental leave, as well as to all parties’ overall lack of understanding of statutory leave entitlements. Aside from the cultural expectations regarding the roles of mothers and fathers, the discrimination that some parents experience in the workplace could, in fact, be an indirect result of the pressure that managers experience during the parental leave process, which largely seems to centre around the cost incurred by the organisation.
So how do we solve these problems?
There are three simple steps that you can take to avoid the common problems associated with parental leave:
- Remove the burden of knowledge from employees
It seems logical to combat this lack of knowledge by educating your organisation’s entire workforce about their entitlements and the legal issues surrounding parental leave, but is this inevitably costly process – which will have to be repeated often – really the best solution?
Instead, consider the benefits of completely removing the burden of knowledge from your employees and placing it onto your ERP system, which already deals with many of your other policies and procedures, allowing your policies to work as intended without relying on an employee’s understanding of that policy to determine its success.
If the steps of the procedure are predetermined and automated, and if your policies are not open to interpretation, there’s much less room for error, and even less room for personal opinions to affect the final judgment.
- Keep it mobile
Your employees need time to discuss their choices with their partners, families and medical teams, and they need to be able to easily compare and contrast all their options so they can find the dates that are perfect for everyone involved.
A request process that can be initiated from any location is ideal in this case, as it will allow your employees to make their decisions with the help of others and see the results in real time, rather than relying on their memory of a prior discussion and trying to make the decisions on their own.
If your employees can take their time and don’t feel rushed or pressured to decide before they’re ready, they can have more confidence in their final decision. This will speed up the process and managers will be able to organise cover for that employee’s work much sooner.
In the event that an employee does have to alter their request, a process that can be initiated from home immediately, rather than one that requires them to visit the workplace, will help you to avoid that last-minute panic to organise cover by notifying you as soon as possible.
- Keep it simple
It’s clear that many managers are uncomfortable with the idea of employees taking parental leave, both because of the negative effects imposed on other employees and because of the costs incurred by the organisation. It could be that finding cover for the employee’s role is too difficult or costly on short notice, or that the entire process is too lengthy and involved, subtracting from time that should be spent doing something more productive.
These concerns are valid, but they’re also very easily solved by ensuring that the process is kept as simple as possible.
Managers don’t need to be involved at every step of the way – they only need to be informed when the employee has reached their final decision so they can provide their approval and organise cover. There’s also no reason for the process to involve a large amount of information gathering if your organisation has its own ERP system, as most of that information is already present.
The perfect parental leave process will ensure that the employee is provided with all the information they need to make their decision without excessive managerial input, and will aim to reduce complexity as much as possible to minimise the time spent seeking clarification and increase the time that managers have to organise cover or redistribute workloads.
By taking these steps, you can ensure that your employees not only feel comfortable requesting parental leave, but also that they receive no less than what they’re legally entitled to and no more than your policies allow.
ParentalLeavePlus can help!
ERPaaS have developed ParentalLeavePlus, which implements these solutions for you in the form of a user-friendly, mobile-enabled application that integrates directly with your ERP system. It enables employees to create clear projections of their parental leave entitlement based on different dates and circumstances as many times as they like, from wherever they like, reducing the length of the process to mere minutes and ensuring that both legal and organisational policies are enforced consistently in every situation without bias or error.
Considering how easy it is for employees to generate these projections and to understand exactly what they’re entitled to, requests can easily be submitted months before the leave is due to start, enabling managers to organise appropriate cover or distribute the workload evenly between remaining employees without difficulty.
When using ParentalLeavePlus, you may also find that you’d benefit from another of our applications, FlexibleWorkingPlus, which can ensure that every new parent’s return to work happens as smoothly and comfortably as possible by simplifying the process of requesting and approving flexible working patterns.
Best of all, these applications can be up and running within two months, and we don’t charge for consultation or support, so your organisation can begin saving right from the get-go!
Find out more about ParentalLeavePlus
If ParentalLeavePlus sounds like something your organisation would benefit from, or if you would like to find out more information, visit www.erpaas.com, or click here to view and download our ParentalLeavePlus brochure. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below, contact us via Twitter, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(This post is part of a series of posts showcasing the benefits that each of our PolicyPlus applications can bring to your organisation. Click here to visit the original post and view a list of all the posts in the series.)