Human Resources

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Recently, a few of our employees announced they were pregnant and will be taking their entitled 15 weeks of maternity leave in addition to 35 weeks of parental leave to care for their newborn. Due to the added cost to the company in hiring cover-off employees and the redistribution in work, it has been suggested that HR propose changes that will reduce the number of maternity leaves in the company. Legally, we cannot control when and how many employees choose to take their maternity leaves. And, if we avoid recruiting women who are in their childbearing years we would be underutilizing the tremendous talent that women have to offer. It would also be a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code. ("Guidelines on developing," 2008) It may even set us back further financially if we find ourselves in litigation over discrimination suits. The future labour force will be increasingly made up of women as they now account for over half of the post-secondary graduates in Canada. ("Education indicators in," 2011) Approximately 57% of our new hires are females with a post-secondary degree. Thus, our selection process is in proportion with the current labour market. If more women continue to become educated than we can expect that the amount of maternity leave will only increase in coming years. However, it is important to recognize that social norms are changing and these issues are no longer exclusive to working mothers. There is a much greater demand being placed on fathers as well. Statistics Canada reported in 2010 that close to 30% of fathers took some amount of leave to be with their newborn. The majority of the dads however were in Quebec, where they instituted a “Parental Insurance Program” that included a 5 week paid leave specifically for dads. ("Canadian dads @home," 2012) We should consider the possibility that other provinces including Ontario may implement a similar policy in the near future. Despite certain beliefs, parental leaves are not what pose the biggest financial risk to companies. It is the loss of human capital. There is a growing need for both men and women to better integrate their work to coincide with their personal lives. Balancing the demands of home and work responsibilities can leave employees stressed and substantially impact their work performance. As an organization, the work-life conflict can affect our business objectives by having to deal with high employee turnover, absenteeism and an overall poor organizational culture. In today’s highly competitive market, employers are looking for ways to brand themselves by offering a number of benefits that job seekers are looking for. Listed below are suggestions of ways we can improve the current maternity leave situation by making changes to the way work is organized and in turn develop a more ‘family-friendly’ workplace that will attract and retain the most qualified candidates.

• On-going Communication: Unlike workplace injuries or sudden health problems, we generally have months to prepare for a maternity/parental leave. This provides us with time to discuss options with the employee and gauge weather their intentions are to return to work. The idea is to establish consistent communication that will keep the employee engaged and therefore more invested in the job and our company.

• Job Enlargement: The job design technique allows workers to broaden the scope of their duties and responsibilities by combining job responsibilities or by rotating tasks. (Steen, Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2009) The concept can be mutually beneficial. As an employer, it can help reduce costs by utilizing existing workers to cover-off the employees on leave. Also, it would require very little training as the majority of employees taking maternity leave in the company hold entry-level positions, it would be more of a lateral shift therefore no imparting of new skills. For the employee, the experience may reduce monotony...
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