How a great parental leave program can help your business stand out
Competition to attract and retain great candidates is fierce. Businesses who have family-friendly work practices such as generous parental leave programs are an enormous incentive to employees who want a good work-life balance. 

There is little doubt that businesses that are family-friendly and who have strong parental leave programs reap many rewards. Those with supportive family policies and practices have been found to report lower levels of employee sick leave and improved employee morale. These organisations also find their policies have a positive impact on staff retention and engagement.

Employees also benefit from robust parental leave policies – they feel confident about how their transition out and back into work will be managed and understand their entitlements. Generous parental leave programs ensure employees feel appreciated and valued. 

So, what does a family-friendly workplace look like and what can businesses learn from companies with best practice parental leave programs?

What are the benefits of best practice parental leave policies?

Organisations who employ best practice parental leave policies and family-friendly, flexible working arrangements often benefit from:

  • Recognition as an employer of choice
  • Reduced staff turnover, which results in fewer recruitment and training costs
  • Enhanced employee engagement and satisfaction
  • Efficient transitions for employees between work and parental leave

“A top class parental leave policy allows you to attract and retain the best and most diverse talent, deliver innovative business solutions, and respond more effectively to customer needs,” says NAB Head of Diversity and Inclusion Kristy Macfarlane.

“It is great for people and their families and leads to improved financial and business outcomes.”

Related: How flexibile workplaces are changing the way we attract talent

What does best practice parental leave look like?

REA Group – offering a ground-breaking parental leave program

Over 10% of REA’s Australian workforce takes parental leave each year. The global real estate group is committed to gender equity in the workplace and has focused on offering employees a way to balance work and personal responsibilities through their parental leave policy.

“Our parental leave policy allows six months’ paid parental leave for primary caregivers and three months of paid leave for secondary carers / partners,” says Josh Grace-Ware, REA Group Executive Manager for HR Operations.

“With more than 50% of our people aged 35 and under, paid parental leave is essential for attracting and retaining staff, and [we are] creating a workplace which respects that coming to work doesn’t mean leaving your personal life at home.”

REA also makes the transition back to work easier for primary carers with reduced hours (75% of agreed work hours) at full pay for the first four weeks after returning from parental leave. And to ensure employees’ superannuation isn’t impacted as a result of taking parental leave, REA pays superannuation for the entire period of leave, paid and unpaid, for up to 12 months.

NAB – leading the way

NAB has established itself as a leader amongst major Australian employers for its parental leave program.



“Our policy allows eligible employees in Australia up to 24 months primary carer’s leave, of which 12 weeks are paid by NAB,” says Macfarlane.

“NAB also offers all eligible employees secondary carer’s leave of six weeks, of which two weeks is paid by NAB.”

NAB was also the first major bank and the first major Australian employer to recognise up to 40 weeks of unpaid primary carer’s leave for long service leave purposes. Similar to REA, NAB pays superannuation on up to 40 weeks' unpaid parental leave.

“Thanks to these changes, NAB employees (regardless of their gender) can now take paid primary carers’ leave anytime within the first twelve months of a child’s life, if they are the primary carer,” says Macfarlane.

The outcomes

At NAB, the outcomes of implementing a parental leave program have been outstanding.

“The return to work rate of employees on parental leave has increased from 65% in 2006 to 85.9% at 30 September 2017,” says Macfarlane.

More male employees are accessing NAB’s paid parental leave entitlement; in the 12 months to 30 September 2017, 30% of NAB’s eligible male employees took paid primary carers leave (up from 2% prior to the change in policy that made this leave more accessible to non-birth parents).

REA has also experienced great results.

“In our recent engagement survey 90% of employees believe that REA is supportive of parents in the workplace,” says Grace-Ware.

Qualities of a best practice parental leave policy:

  • Meets the minimum legislative requirements (guidance can be gathered from the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website

  • Is in writing, with staff knowing and understanding their entitlements

  • Is fair and just, and meets the unique needs of your employees

  • Can be used to attract candidates