The experience of returning to work after maternity is not the same for everyone. Some new mums are incredibly anxious at the thought of leaving their pride and joy. Others are raring to get back to daily adult conversation – I know I was after 14 months off! Most are probably somewhere in between.
But whatever our feelings at the time, one thing we all need is support. And unfortunately, many new mums just aren’t getting it.
Just 18% of maternity returners feel happy and confident on coming back to work. And over a third feel so unsupported by their employer that they wanted to leave the company altogether.
This is not just bad for mums, it’s bad for business too. It takes an average of £3,000 and 27 days to hire someone new. Far more than it costs to support a new mum returning to work.
And that’s not all. Maternity returners have the enthusiasm and tenacity of a new starter, eager to get going. Plus, experience, knowledge, and familiarity with your business. It’s win-win.
A lack of support for new mums also sends a negative message to other women in the workplace. Why would I want to work for a company that doesn’t value me as a woman, an individual, a team member, a mum, and an IT professional?
I have to say at this stage, that this is absolutely not my experience. My managers, directors, and colleagues – of all genders – have been incredible in supporting my return to work. They helped me switch to a new role and alter my hours, and I am far more productive as a result.
So, based on my experience, here’s what I think other employers can learn.
My manager stayed in touch with me right through my maternity leave. And not just about work stuff; I also got invited to the office social events, so I still felt in the loop. And when I returned to work, I had very little catching up to do.
I know some women who logged on for the first time in months and thought… ‘ok, what now?’ Managers need to put a plan in place for returning mums. Processes and people may have changed. And memories may need refreshing (mine certainly did!).
Our lives have changed drastically since we’ve been away, so the way we work may need to change too. Whether its flexible or reduced hours or remote work, be accommodating to the needs of your people. Not just new mums – everyone. Support your staff when they need it, and they’ll repay you.
If you’re an employer that proudly supports new mums, good for you. Now make sure everyone knows about it. Be clear in job ads, social media, and the careers sections of your website that you support returning mums – it will answer the question in advance for potential new hires!
It’s one thing to say you support women in your workplace, it’s another to show it. Set up working groups for women and new mums to continually improve your return-to-work process. And, most importantly, make sure women are visible and accessible at every level of your business – particularly in leadership roles.
As I said, my experience of coming back to work at Westcoast Cloud has been excellent. And I’m interested to hear from other parents too: what was your return like? How did your company help you to reintegrate? And are there any tips or ideas I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.