In Canada, expectant and new mothers are entitled to 15 weeks of maternity leave. There’s an option for another 35 weeks of parental leave (meaning this time can be used by a mother or father.) However, most commonly this time is taken almost entirely by mothers.
Maternity leave is an important and vital benefit that the government offers. While a lot of focus is placed on covering a mother’s time off, many companies fail to put into place a schedule and timeline for reintegration. This failure can lead to increased stress for women already in the throes of one of life’s biggest challenges—parenthood.
As Millennials take over the workforce, there’s a strong feminist turn happening when it comes to maternity leave. Many new mothers choose not to return to work immediately, others choose shorter mat leaves, or split it more equally with their partners.
For those mothers who do return to work a bad reintegration experience can lead an employee to look for a new job, one that offers a better work-life balance. Ensuring a plan is in place to make the move back to work as easy and stress free as possible is the best way to retain employees after mat leave.
Create a Transition Timeline
Maternity leave can last anywhere from six to eighteen months, and a lot can happen during that time. There’s employee turnover, changes to leadership and policies, new systems implemented and new technologies. With all the possible changes that can and will occur during an employee’s mat leave, it’s important managers create and outline a transition timeline to help integrate an employee back into the workforce.
Managers should aim to create these timelines with the employee returning to work. They should focus on whether the employee wants a quick transition, or one that’s slower. They should discuss what’s changed within the company and schedule any training that may be required to get the employee back up to speed.
This timeline should also be established with one major caveat—flexibility, after all, caring for babies and young children can be unpredictable. Managers need to recognize that parenthood isn’t a straight 9-5.
Offer a Flexible Schedule
A flexible schedule is one way a company can support new mothers returning to work after mat leave.
We’ve talked about the benefits of remote work before—how it can lead to more productivity, lower stress and have positive financial effects on employees and businesses.
For new mothers, working from home can also help lower the cost of childcare—enabling them to put children in for half days, or only a few days a week—saving them money.
They also save time because they’re no longer required to make the daily commute into an office. Many employers and managers fear that remote work will limit an employee’s productivity. But study, after study says otherwise. Managers and business leaders need to ensure they don’t confuse presence with productivity—presenteeism is real. Many jobs can easily be done remotely, thanks to technology.
Help Cover the Costs of Childcare
When a company revues their benefit plan, they consider what’s changed in the current workforce, and they attempt to anticipate new needs that may arise. While this is great, one need that continues to go ignored is that of childcare.
Women already make less money on average then their male counterparts. And in Canada the costs of childcare have skyrocketed in recent years, rising faster than inflation in 61% of Canadian cities. Only around 3% of the best workplaces in Canada offer onsite childcare service, but another 27% at least offer subsidized emergency backup options.
Offering support for childcare in some capacity can go a long way to help, limiting financial stress and retaining employees.
Provide Paternity Leave
While more fathers are taking time off when children are born, both the government and employers continue to fail at offering and encouraging paternity leave in the same capacity as they do maternity leave.
Companies that offer paternity leave positively impact women’s career prospects, as they’re able to return to work earlier without having to place their baby in someone else’s care—a prospect that is both stressful and expensive.
Paternity leave supports working mothers, establishes stronger bonds between fathers and their children, and strengthens parental relationships.
It Takes Time
Planning for an employee’s return to work is just as important as preparing for their leave. When employer’s dedicate time to reintegrating staff back into the work space, they’re helping to eliminate stress, building a strong working relationship between managers and staff.
For a new mother, returning to work can be overwhelming. Using technology to streamline the process—including upgrading skills and training on new rules and policies, as well as offering flexibility in scheduling, can vastly improve the return-to-work experience.