Supporting women who are due to go on maternity leave, and those who are returning from maternity leave, can help employers retain experienced and dedicated employees and ensure that they are working to their full potential. There can be a number of significant benefits to business, including saving on recruitment and training costs and ensuring productivity levels are at their peak. However, knowing what practical support to give pregnant women or new mothers can be difficult. That’s why at XpertHR we’ve commissioned a good practice guide on maternity from Liz Morris of Mayfield Associates.
Liz is an experienced HR professional and gender diversity consultant and has recently completed a two-year research project into the experiences of employees, line managers and employers managing maternity, in conjunction with the NCT and Working Families.
While many employers are aware of their legal obligations, for example paying statutory maternity pay and advising a pregnant woman of the date that her maternity leave will end, what else can employers do to encourage pregnant women and new mothers to stay and be productive at work?
For example, the good practice guide will cover the steps that can be taken by a line manager, including meeting with the employee before she goes on maternity leave to discuss how her work should be covered while she is away, thereby benefiting from the employee’s day-to-day knowledge of her role, and to discuss a back-to-work plan, so that she is productive on her return. This will help to ensure that the maternity leave brings little interruption to the business and that a new mother remains dedicated to her employer. In many instances, the steps that employers can take are at little or no cost to the business.
The IRS research on maternity provision and return to work arrangements following maternity leave (subscription required) shows what employers are doing now to support pregnant employees and new mothers. Some employers pay a maternity bonus to mothers who return from maternity leave. This is sometimes paid by employers to avoid an experienced employee going to work for a competitor, due to experiencing a lack of support from her original employer. However, the research also reveals that employers can still do more. Few employees take advantage of keeping-in-touch days, but when they are used, the research reveals that they are normally suggested by the employee. Keeping-in-touch days are one of the ways employees can be kept in the loop and stay committed while on maternity leave.
It would be great to hear what other employers are doing to support pregnant women and new mothers.