Priorities change over time, and that’s completely normal. We are focused on one thing at the time and once we manage to achieve our goals, we focus on other goals. First it was school, then it was college, afterwards it was all about finding a job and paying off student loans, and only later do we start thinking about starting a family and how it will affect our careers. Because many people are employed in startup companies, it’s only natural to be wondering what their maternity and parental leave policies are.

Being informed

You might not be a parent just yet and you might not even be planning to become one in near future, but keeping your options open is imperative if you want to make an informed decision and protect yourself. If you work in a company with a lot of parents, you can talk to them openly about their experiences and expectations. This will give you a chance to get a second-hand experience and you’ll learn a lot from someone who’s been in the same position as you are at the moment (or will be in future).

It’s about flexibility

People who have kids and careers will tell you two things: it’s important to take some time off to prepare for and recover after childbirth, but another curious thing as well – it’s more about flexibility than it is about taking time off. Yes, time off is very important, but for people who have children, the chance to come a bit later than their coworkers or a chance to come and leave early is life-saving. When you have to take the kids to school or daycare center, and when you have to worry about getting home from work in time to pick them up can be stressful. Flexible working hours are more important and many startup companies offer this to employees who became parents.

The dark side of parenthood

Even though parenthood is supposed to be the happiest time in a person’s life, you can experience some negative emotions as well. As if going through pregnancy and childbirth isn’t stressful enough, there are people who worry that their employers will lay them off once they learn about the pregnancy or right after the parental leave. This is sadly a common occurrence in some startup companies (and even some big companies too) and it happens because employers don’t want to (or can’t afford to) cover up for an employer on paternal leave. Sometimes people can experience outright bullying and harassment that causes them to resign rather than stay in a toxic environment.

What you can do

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and it can happen that you experience unjust treatment by your employers or your coworkers either before or after your maternity or parental leave. Northern Beaches solicitors have a reliable team that’s been dealing with similar cases for a long time, and they say that being informed and reacting early may prevent the matter from escalating any further. If you fear that you will be unjustly dismissed because of your pregnancy or you feel threatened in any way in your condition, you should consult an expert and learn what you can do to ensure that your rights are protected.

Recognize the warning signs

If you want to protect yourself from such scenarios, it’s important to talk to your employer as well as HR personnel openly about your rights as a parent. If you notice that others are treated differently when they ask for paternity leave, it’s a sure warning sign that something’s wrong. A tell-tale sign that something’s off is that you start getting a lot more work than before or the demands suddenly change. This is harassment and bullying and you shouldn’t have to deal with it. If you experience this in the workplace, contact not only HR personnel but a lawyer specialized in employment law too.

Healthy workplace culture

When you have a great maternity and paternity leave policy, it will help recruit and retain talented workers who are parents, but it also does a lot in creating a more equitable workplace culture.  When they see how employees with families are treated fairly, non-parent employees will see that the company cares about them and their wellbeing. Parenthood is a challenging time, and when your company supports you, you will feel empowered and confident. Non-parents will understand that in case they need support or need to take a leave, they’ll be treated properly, too.

Employers – what’s in it for you?

Even though your startup company is just getting started, it would be a responsible move to think about maternity policy immediately. At some point, you will (hopefully) be very successful and have employees you’re satisfied with and want to keep in the company, but research shows that more than 60% of women wouldn’t even consider working for a company without a maternity policy. If you’re not willing to offer paid maternity leave, you’re just encouraging great employees to leave your startup and go someplace else, which is a huge loss for you.

Throughout your career, you will face many challenges, but having to balance your work with your family shouldn’t be one of them. Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world, and we’ll likely have to compromise at some point, but when you know the law and your rights, you’ll be in better position to negotiate and get the most for you and your family. This is why you should stay informed and interested in your rights because when you have the law on your side, you won’t have to worry.

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