How to Negotiate Parental Leave With Your Veterinary Employer

Planning and negotiating parental leave will be well worth all the time and effort. Find out how in our article!

Parental Leave two vets talking

Having a baby is an exciting time – but it comes with a whole lot of planning, especially for those focused on veterinary work! And whilst you may be more interested in decorating the nursery, it’s also important to thoroughly plan and negotiate parental leave.

Boring, I know… BUT it will provide more certainty for your career, and greater piece of mind knowing how much time you can have with bub before returning to the clinic. So let’s explore some useful tips around parental leave, and how to discuss this with your veterinary employer.

Educate Yourself on Negotiate Parental Leave

Parental leave allows employees time off work for the birth or adoption of a child. Parental leave can include unpaid parental leave, government-funded Parental Leave Pay (PLP), and employer-funded paid parental leave.

1. Unpaid parental leave and PLP

Fair Work and Services Australia cover all the information you need to be across including eligibility, entitlements, notice, etc. There is some complexity, so the sooner you start reviewing this information the better. Employees are entitled to PLP from the Australian Government, which you can find out all about via FairWork’s Paid Parental Leave webpage.

2. Employer-funded paid parental leave and other benefits

Depending on your employer, you may also be entitled to employer-funded paid parental leave if this is offered.

To find out what your veterinary employer offers, check your employment contract or registered agreement and the company’s leave policy. There should be details on eligibility, entitlements, notice, and how to apply. Contact your HR representative if you need help accessing these documents or have any questions.

Some examples of best practice benefits include:

  • Providing pregnant employees parking at work or work from home arrangements
  • Paying the employee their normal wages during some or all of their leave
  • Topping up an employee’s pay so they get their full wage when accessing PLP
  • Providing the option of taking annual leave or long service leave at half pay during parental leave
  • Paying an employee’s superannuation contributions while on leave
  • Offering a ‘return to work’ bonus when employees return from parental leave
  • Counting the period of unpaid parental leave as service for the calculation of annual leave and other service-related entitlements.
negotiate parental leave family with baby

3. Speak to other mums at your workplace

New or expecting mums can be a great support network to share information, advice and moral support during this new stage of your life. This networking should also help you understand what kind of arrangements are typical at your workplace – invaluable information if you need to negotiate with your employer. They can also be a valuable source of advice for how to transition back into clinic work after taking parental leave!

Negotiate Parental Leave by Speaking to Your Manager

It’s unlikely this will be the first time you’re flagging your pregnancy with your manager. This will likely be the follow up meeting after your announcement where you discuss your plans for parental leave.

You will need to talk to your manager at least 10 weeks before your child’s expected date of birth or adoption as per Fair Work (also worth checking your employer’s notice requirements). But, I would suggest you start these conversations as early as possible to allow lots of time for planning and availability to negotiate parental leave (if needed).

Before this meeting, make sure you are fully aware of all your entitlements, and are clear on what you want to request. It’s also worth knowing what your best-case scenario is and what is the least you’re willing to accept so you have clear parameters if you need to negotiate parental leave.

veterinary mental health two vet nurses smiling and laughing

Suggested discussion topics include:

How much time you want away from work

including specific start/finish dates for leave. If all agreed, submit your written leave request. If you don’t agree, follow up with an email to your manager outlining your request, their response and next steps. You may also need to loop in HR.

Advise if you want to claim PLP as your employer will need to register with Services Australia.

Plan for a good handover

Come armed with an outline of your work tasks, and ready to discuss how this may be managed in your absence. Also advise of the documentation you will provide for handover. Top tip: When drafting a handover document, rather than sit there with a blank sheet trying to recall each and every task, it’s much easier to write things down as you do them. There’s so much that veterinary professionals are responsible for, and thinking of them off the top of your head can be quite a challenge! If you allow yourself a long lead time it will be much less stressful too!

Keeping in touch

Set up preferred communication channels so that you and your manager can contact each other if things change. You may wish to tentatively schedule in work activities (e.g., planning days, training, or conferences) during your unpaid parental leave as part of the 10 paid keeping in touch days entitlements as per Fair Work (also check your company’s policy).

Your Expectations Around Returning to Work

Whilst you may not know for certain until baby arrives, it’s worth flagging your return to work intentions now, especially if they include a change in work hours, location, start/finish times, compressed working week, etc.

Make it clear you intend to continue your career (if you indeed do) and discuss your future career goals. Request they forward job vacancies whilst you’re on leave and consider you for any suitable roles.

Getting the most out of feedback vet talking with nurse

Return to Work Guarantee

Employees have a right to return to their pre-parental leave role (see Fair Work for more information). Therefore, it’s worth asking about their plans for the role whilst you’re on leave (e.g., will they recruit someone to backfill the position?) and request they keep you informed of any changes to your role as these occur.

What happens if things change? Things can change, so it’s worth asking if they are open to you coming back early or extending your leave. Remember to confirm any notice periods that apply.

Final Words of Advice to Negotiate Parental Leave

Knowing your rights and entitlements will put you in a better position to negotiate parental leave with your employer – so make sure you do your homework! Be clear on what you want (as much as you can be when you’re pregnant and facing the uncertainty of what’s to come!), and open to compromise that involves solutions to benefit both parties.

Planning for and knowing exactly how to negotiate parental leave will be well worth all the time and effort. Your investment now signals your commitment to your career and strong intent to return, which your employer will no doubt appreciate. Planning also means you’ll be able to focus on just enjoying the excitement of this incredibly life changing time – and eating the cupcakes at the work send-off party! Once you have negotiated your parental leave, be sure to find out How to Harness Your Parental Leave and make the most of this important time!

Author: Erica Hatfield

Author: Erica Hatfield

Career Development Practitioner | Workplace Gender Equality Expert | HR Professional | Psychologist

Erica is a Specialist Career Coach for women wanting to create a greater quality of life between work and family. As an experienced HR Professional, Psychologist, Entrepreneur, Career Changer and Mum, she understands the ‘busyness’ of life and juggling family, work and everything in between can sometimes mean we don’t take the time to focus on our own needs.

Her unique culmination of work expertise, personal life experience, and passion for gender equality have equipped her to empower women to redefine what’s possible and redesign their futures to live it with purpose, balance and ambition.

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