How to support your employees after they return from parental leave

Supporting your employees returning to work from parental leave can be challenging. New parents go through a range of physical, emotional and psychological changes in a short space of time, and often don’t feel fully prepared to return to work so soon in the same capacity as before. Ensuring there is seamless support throughout parental leave and the return to work plays a vital role in promoting good mental health in new parents, at a time when they can be particularly vulnerable. There is a distinct need for more support for employers too, as 1 in 4 employers say the uncertainty around whether those on maternity leave would return to work was difficult for them to manage. 

Is your parental leave policy working?

Before setting out to make any adjustments, it’s important to first assess your current parental leave policy and how it’s working. Are employees satisfied with the length of leave? Are they returning to work feeling prepared and still producing an excellent standard of work? Are you offering flexible working or adjustments for new parents? These are just a handful of questions to ask yourself. Sending out an anonymous survey to employees regarding their views on the organisation’s parental leave policy is a helpful way to understand what is working and what isn’t.

Listening to your employees’ needs and understanding they will require some adjustments, such as flexible working hours, is beneficial to both the business and the workforce as it takes the expectation off new parents of having to work in exactly the same way they did before the arrival of their child, whilst letting businesses get the best out of them. 

Be flexible or lose valuable employees

Returning to work after parental leave is unlikely to  be the same as it was pre-pandemic, raising new challenges for managing this transition. Employees will probably remain working from home, meaning the adoption of flexible working is essential as they will be trying to care for their new child and find their feet with parenthood, while fulfilling their professional responsibilities. 

Discussing flexible working options before employees return to work will demonstrate your understanding of the new changes in their life and help them to feel valued and thus reduce the likelihood of them leaving. With 23% of maternity leavers not returning to work, making reasonable adjustments for them can make a world of difference when it comes to retaining talented employees. 

Ensure your policies are inclusive 

Respecting and valuing your employees as whole individuals is not only good for their sense of wellbeing and fulfilment, but also benefits your business. By integrating more flexible and inclusive parental leave policies, you could see greater commitment and loyalty from employees. Alongside this, you’ll see a boost to your organisation’s reputation for being an employer who goes above and beyond for their employees. 

A vital aspect of this includes ensuring that your policies reflect the diverse nature of your workforce. Single, LGBTQ+, adoptive and surrogate parents should all be included in your policies, and all equally entitled to the same amount of leave. Parental leave that’s gendered often reinforces traditional parental roles. When only your female staff members receive the full entitlement of parental leave time, it implies that they should assume the bulk of child caring responsibilities. Equally, the need for bonding time also applies to adopted children over the age of 5 as they may face a bigger adjustment period into a new household. This means new adoptive parents may need to spend more time working from home, or with staggered working hours. 

Frequently communicate to understand your employees’ needs 

Every parent has different needs, responsibilities and priorities. Ensuring that your policies are flexible and encompass these differences is essential in ensuring you’re offering meaningful support. A lack of communication is often cited as a major issue for parents on parental leave, with 45% of mothers reporting a problem with employer contact while on maternity leave; 26% of these women reported the problem was too little contact from their employer.

By maintaining an agreed level of communication with working parents, you can ensure that the office is well prepared to cater to the needs of those returning. 57% of mothers have stated that they would be happy to express breast milk at work. In instances where mothers want to continue breastfeeding after they’ve returned to work, having those early conversations before their arrival would ensure that the office has allocated private rooms with sockets or fridges to enable expressing milk during working hours. 

Employers report a noticeable increase in the number of working mothers choosing to delay their return to work, with one in three reporting they found it difficult to return due to struggling with emotional adjustments of transitioning back to their position. The cost of this difficult transition back to work also impacts their team and organisation. Facilitating a positive experience for your working parents is a smart move for your business as well as a strong signal to them that they and their baby are valued. 

Kami is a trusted intelligent companion for modern parents, empowering them with specialist, personalised information and tools to make well-informed decisions along their parental journey. Kami provides instant, trusted answers to parents' urgent questions, access to vetted health and wellness experts via tele-consultation, as well as appropriately timed conversations between line managers and employees on parental leave, allowing employers to better support their parent employees return back to work.