Returning from maternity or parental leave can be very daunting for a parent. We should know – we’ve done it.
We both returned to Thrive Law in the past four months, and have both faced different difficulties and adjustments. So we’ve prepared this blog to share some lessons we’ve learnt along the way, for you to implement for your employees.
Support Starts Early
Going on maternity or shared parental leave can be really daunting. The prospect of leaving your workplace for an extended period of time can really weigh on an employee, long before they actually go.
It can be really helpful to introduce specialist parental coaching for employees, as early as possible before they depart. That coaching can ensure an employee thinks about what they need from the company, before, during, and after their leave.
Alongside the actual value in the coaching itself, the fact it was provided also demonstrated to us that Thrive was invested in our development, wellbeing and support, even on leave.
Saying “See you Later”
When your employee leaves for parental leave, consider what kind of departure they might want. Can you throw a small get together to celebrate their new arrival before they leave?
Naturally, some babies make an appearance earlier than planned. Your employee may have agreed a departure date with you, but it is helpful to have regular catch ups in those last few weeks in case parental leave unexpectedly commences earlier than planned.
On their last day before leave, if possible, you should try to have a final meeting in the morning, where you check they feel confident in their departure and happy everything is properly handed over. You should try to think about the language around this – as the employer, you should take responsibility for the handover, rather than putting it all on the employee to have passed everything on. If there are gaps, prioritise those gaps being filled on that last day. Do this collaboratively.
To end the day, have yet another meeting, and make sure everything feels “done”. Leaving to have a baby can be really stressful and the comfort of feeling things have been left in “good hands” is invaluable.
Investment and Belief
Is there anything you can do to demonstrate that employees are a valued member of the team, before they return? Both of us were promoted whilst on maternity leave – we’ve returned to more senior roles.
To us, this has really demonstrated the value and potential which Thrive sees in us. It also means employees may feel excited about the new opportunities or responsibilities on their return.
Communication with your employee whilst they are on leave is crucial. Include them on any company announcements and invite them to those social events. This is not only a legal requirement, but it also keeps your employee feeling involved as part of your team, rather than feeling isolated whilst they are away from the workplace.
Speak to your employee about whether they want to attend Keeping In Touch (KIT) days before they return to work. These can be useful in terms of updating them about any internal changes to processes, providing any required training and generally just getting them thinking about what their return to work is going to look like. All these things can help their return feel less daunting.
If you do arrange KIT days, try to think about what’s the best use of that day. It might not be helpful to overwhelm someone with tasks, but equally it may help some employees if they can get a “taster” for what their work usually looks like. Different employees may have different expectations or different hopes for what a KIT day looks like and what the function of it is – so ask them!
Ease Them In
When employees return from parental leave its likely that they will have accrued substantial annual leave. This is typically taken in one go before they return to work.
But it may be advantageous for you to work with your employee to figure out if some of this annual leave can be spread out and used to create a phased return – perhaps a few shorter weeks before they resume their usual or amended hours?
This would, of course, be subject to childcare, but it could be a really helpful idea to try to ensure employees feel supported when they first come back.
It’s A Slow Adjustment
It can be really hard to adjust to returning to work. Try to keep in mind that your employee is not only dealing with their own return to work, they have a young child who is also going through a transition whether that be starting nursery or with a childminder, or simply a change to the person who has been their primary caregiver since their arrival. These changes can have a huge knock-on effect on a child’s behaviour, eating and sleeping habits, which undoubtedly will impact on your employee. For most parents, it will take much longer than they expected to find their feet again. Some days will be easier than others, and the hard days can be really hard.
You should also bear in mind that most children, when they start with a new childcare service, get their own version of “fresher’s flu” and bring it home, so your employee may have to balance last minute childcare and their own health in the first few months. It can help to have a conversation early on about what employees can and should do if their child is unwell and unable to go to childcare.
What employees will want in terms of support can change day to day – and that’s why in big companies it might help to have a single point of contact so they can seek out the support they need. It shows that you value an employee and want to support their return to work if you don’t just leave this up to them. We also recommend that you schedule regular check ins with your employee in those first few weeks (and beyond, where necessary).
You should try to make sure that your expectations are clear and realistic – and it might make sense to adjust targets or KPIs to consider what the employee is experiencing as they adjust to their return.
Parents will remember how a company made them feel and the support they received. They’re far more likely to stay with an employer who provided for them well when they were struggling to adjust to their new life as a working parent. Hopefully, implementing just a few of our ideas will help with your retention of parents.
If you would like to speak to a member of our team about any of our services or if you are looking for an outsourced HR partner to assist in the management of your workforce or updating policies, please get in touch at email@example.com
Please note this blog is for reference purposes only and is only accurate at the date it was published. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action. Please contact us if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org