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nine to five

I’m hoping to have a baby with my partner in the next few years but my company doesn’t offer a parental-leave top-up. I’d love to advocate to human resources for better parental leave benefits, like offering a top-up and a gradual return to work. The company is already struggling to retain staff, and I know business is going well, so there are funds available. What’s the best course of action for me, as a mid-level employee, to take?


Allison Venditti, HR expert and founder of Moms at Work and My Parental Leave, Toronto

The first thing to do is to start the conversation to see what is available and what they have planned. If the answer is nothing, I would offer to start a parent resource group to help bring in other voices. Despite the push for top-up, it often comes with a payback clause (because it is indeed a retention tool) so we look at a number of different options when we work with companies. Many policies for parental leave cost the company nothing and can include a solid communication plan for parents on leave, a set of pre-designed graduated return-to-work options, training for HR staff to understand the process and a dedicated contact person to make sure you are kept up-to-date on company updates and changes while on leave.

When requesting new policies it is helpful to make the business case. Moms at Work conducted Canada’s first maternity leave survey and showed the real numbers around retention of parents during this leave. It is the No. 1 reason why women leave employers and is easily remedied by working on the points above. We make so many investments in employees from training to coaching – why would we not invest in retaining them with better parental leave policies?

Companies often shy away from dealing with parental leave because legally it can be complicated. So, providing employees with access to an external program and support often relieves the burden for HR to know all the ins and outs.


Natasha Lakhani, vice-president of people and talent, Snapcommerce Technologies, Toronto

Your HR department may have a process to share suggestions or ideas anonymously so you could use that forum as a first step. If they don’t have that and you feel comfortable, I would encourage you to bring it to your HR department directly. I find this to be more effective, and ensures accountability to respond to you on why they will or will not explore the idea. Request a face-to-face or video meeting with the HR business partner that’s assigned to your department. Face-to-face meetings are always more effective, especially in a remote world.

I would speak to it from a competitive standpoint as well as the benefit for the organization from a retention standpoint. These are standard and competitive offerings that most organizations offer so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I wouldn’t focus on your personal reasons for it rather than the benefit to the organization as it supports its employees needs. Ideally, if you had some data points or research that could help validate your point, it would be more effective. For example, there is an initiative on Linkedin called #showusyourleave, which highlights the importance and value of parental leave benefits. This may be a great idea to explore in advance of your conversation. Ultimately, you should feel comfortable going to your local HR partner as part of their role in the company is to hear suggestions and ideas.

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