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In Canada, there are two types of leave available to pregnant women. The first is known as maternity leave, which covers the period leading up to and immediately following the birth of a child. The other is parental leave, which is available to parents of either sex and also to adoptive parents.

Both types of leave are available through the Employment Insurance program, designed to give parents time with their new family member. Maternity leave offers new mothers a chance to look after their health in the weeks leading up to and after the birth of their child.

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Both parental leave and maternity leave create disruptions in your business, so it’s important to establish a good policy around return-to-work processes. Help your workers return from a maternity or parental leave more successfully with these tips.

Create Overlapping Contracts

Maternity benefits are usually short-term, representing just a few weeks. Mothers may decide to work up until their due date, but could be advised to stop working sooner. Many women elect to take time off before their due dates to help them better prepare.

Maternity benefits extend from this period until a few weeks after the birth of the child. If the mother doesn’t take parental leave herself, she’ll return to the office. If she does take parental leave, then she may be away for up to 18 months. Many people return after 12 months. Some women will split their parental leave terms with their partners.

How you cover your team member’s absence will be affected by how long they plan to take. If they’ll be absent for 18 months, you’ll likely want to hire someone to fill their role. If they’re only going to be away for a few weeks, you might ask others around the office to divvy up tasks until their return.

If you do opt to hire, create overlapping contracts. The new hire should start before your team member’s leave begins. This allows opportunities for training. Overlap when the team member returns from leave allows the contract worker to help the team member get back up to speed.

Offer Flexibility for Returning from Maternity Leave

Your team member could be ready to come back full-time after six months, or they might want a reduced role even after 18 months. You should be prepared to discuss the employee’s needs for return-to-work with them.

Some parents may need to adjust their working hours to accommodate for daycare availability. This might mean they start the work day early and leave later, or vice-versa. They may ask to work a part-time schedule. That could mean they’re in for a few hours every day, or they work full shifts two or three times a week.

Work with your team member to allow them to reintegrate and accommodate their new scheduling needs as much as possible.

Bring Them Onboard

If someone has been away from the office for 18 months, have an “onboarding” session with them. Review policies and procedures, much the same as you would with a new hire.

Your business might have seen more incremental changes than anticipated. For someone just coming back, so much change can feel overwhelming and disorienting.

Set up training sessions for new equipment or software you’ve introduced as well.

Patience is also important. Your team member is talented and capable, but they’ll need time to adjust and catch up on everything that’s happened in their absence. Give them the time and supports they need, and they’ll be ready to tackle even the toughest projects.

Be Welcoming

Perhaps most important, make sure you welcome this team member back. There may have been staffing changes while they were away, and other changes could have occurred within the business. Remind them that they’re an important part of the team and you’re glad to have them back in the office.

With the right training, support, and policies, every return to work can be successful.


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