Keep in touch and keep hold of your talent.

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One of the most unfortunate outcomes of employees taking extended parental leave to raise their children, is that many never make their way back to work.  Whether the leave period was 6 months, a year or even 5 years, it is all too common for employees to drop out of the workforce due to a loss of confidence, a concern around managing the juggle, or a sense that the business has evolved so much whilst they’ve been absent that integrating back into the workplace feels impossible.

Whatever the reason, these talent dropouts cost organisations significantly and result in disruption and the loss of valuable IP, relationships and knowledge. 

There is one really simple solution to avoiding this, and it’s astounding more organisations aren’t actively promoting it: Keep in Touch Days.

Parental leave is a challenging and vulnerable time for most new mums and dads.  There is increasing evidence that highlights those organisations which make a conscious effort to actively support their team members through the transition into and out of parental leave, enjoy greater rates of return to the business, together with increased loyalty, engagement and productivity.

There are several ways to retain the engagement of your employees whilst they are on parental leave and one of the simplest is to encourage the use of their Keep in Touch days.  In Australia, it is a statutory entitlement under the Fair Work Act that employees may access up to 10 paid Keep In Touch days whilst on primary carer’s leave, yet it is astounding that so few employees take them and many employers fail to communicate to their teams that this entitlement exists. 

According to a recent study by Flex Careers on pregnancy, parental leave and return to work*, 40% of employees had no contact at all with their employer whilst on parental leave and only 13% of all new parents felt connected to, and appreciated by, their employee whilst on leave. Transparent, open communication can mean the difference between an employee remaining in the organisation and that same employee dropping out of the workforce altogether, so it is crucial that this communication exists between manager and employee.

Agreeing on a Keep In Touch plan before your employee heads off on parental leave is a no-brainer and we know that it influences how positive an employee’s parental leave experience is, as well as how smoothly they re-board back into the business. Those employers who transparently advocate that this benefit is available and actively support their teams to utilise them, reap the rewards.

Here are 5 examples of how your employees can use their Keep in Touch days to the benefit of both themselves and your organisation:

1) Participate in team strategy and planning days, ensuring they remain aware of the latest business direction and have the opportunity to contribute with fresh eyes.

·2) Attend team meetings and discussions in order to remain connected to the team and up to date on any people or role changes.

3) Undertake training of new business systems and processes, enabling them to hit the ground running with confidence and competence upon their return.

·4) Develop a return to work plan in conjunction with their manager, to set clear expectations and milestones and pave the path for a smooth return.

5) Implement a phased return to work by spending full and half days in the office in the lead up to their return, to help smooth any wrinkles in their childcare and other logistical arrangements.

Gone are the days when parental leave meant ‘Out-of-sight, out-of-mind’.  The evidence is more than clear, it pays to Keep in Touch.

*FlexReport: How can organisations better support parents? Flex Careers, 2018.

shethrives.org is an Australian organisation dedicated to supporting working parents to return to work and to thrive. Our Positive Parental Leave Program supports employees before, during and after parental leave through a highly-engaging series of short video tutorials and interactive discovery tools. Our psychology-led, highly practical and professionally astute program has been designed with the needs of mothers and fathers in mind. The reported benefits include increased confidence, productivity and improved return to work outcomes. Contact us to Book a Demo, or download our program brochure for more information.