The importance of supporting smooth parental leave transitions

Taking parental leave is a huge milestone for many people. Every person’s story is different, and even if we set aside the important and sometimes complex stories about conception, adoption, surrogacy, pregnancy health, and so on, the challenges around parental leave itself can be vast.

For many people, parental leave is the longest planned absence from work since the commencement of their working lives. And many are also facing a financially challenging period of very low or no pay.

We’ve heard so many good, and not so good, stories of parents regarding their parental leave journey. Here are two examples we’ve compiled for your reading pleasure. To support anonymity, names were changed at their request.

Louise planned her parental leave to a tee, including a proposal for keeping in touch days, a plan for her backfill, an in depth handover document, and months’ worth of project plans and strategy documents ready to go.

While Louise was on leave her role was not backfilled, it was mostly absorbed by other members within and outside of her team, with some other projects not being delivered at all. Her manager didn’t contact her to arrange any keeping in touch days. While she was on leave her organisation went through a merger, and a new manager started who she did not get the opportunity to meet.

The kicker? Louise chose to return to work earlier than originally planned, based on a verbal promise from an Executive leader that she would lead some exciting projects. When she got back to work she learned her role was being made redundant. That’s one hell of a poor transition.

Understandably, Louise left the organisation feeling anxious about her career, and frustration and anger towards the organisation. Louise knew what she needed to support her transition to parental leave, while on leave, and upon returning, but a lack of communication, integrity, ethics and commitment from her leadership team significantly let her down.

Brett and his wife discussed planning a family, and in particular the finances around taking parental leave. Brett and his wife decided that once their child arrived, Brett would take parental leave to care for their new child, as he had accumulated many weeks of long service leave, and could take the majority of the time off at full pay. Not only did this make financial sense for their family, Brett was excited to use his leave to bond with their new child.

Although Brett admits to facing many stereotypes during this time from friends and the public, he found his employer and colleagues to be extremely supportive. Brett and his manager discussed a parental leave plan, Brett helped recruit a person to cover his leave, and he was able to participate in keeping in touch days to maintain his professional registration, and keep up with new systems that were introduced at work. Upon his return, Brett applied for a Flexible Working Arrangement where he job shared for 6 months with the person who covered his role during his leave. Brett felt extremely supported by his organisation, and now hopes that many more males will feel supported to take parental leave for their families.

So how do we reduce the bad stories and make the good news stories more common practice?

Our next Member Connect event is on Monday 17th June, where we will discuss how we can all support smooth parental leave transitions, and put them into practice now.

As a closed-door, members only group we will discuss -

  • What are the essential tasks for a manager prior, during and on an employee’s return?

  • How do we measure our success on supporting employees through and beyond parental leave?

  • What are the practical steps for HR in implementing and maintaining change?

  • Who gets forgotten in this conversation and how can we support various groups? Grandparents who become sole carer, fathers and more.

Our Member Connect events are for DPA members only, if you are a member and didn’t receive the event registration, pop us an email to and we’ll send one through.

Not a member? It’s super affordable to join today!