Parents often face unique challenges returning to work after maternity leave or paternity leave.
Working mothers and fathers’ schedules are often vastly different than during leave; in addition, they may be navigating new elements, such as day care drop-off and pick-up or a reduced sleep schedule, while also trying to get caught up on all the projects and developments that have occurred at work in the past few months.
Although a survey conducted last year by child care provider Bright Horizons found 96 percent of expectant mothers are eager to go back to work after maternity leave, some — along with some new fathers — seem to encounter issues during the actual process.
Forty-three percent of new parents feel their employer sees them as less committed when they return from maternity or paternity leave. More than one in three feel they receive worse treatment than other workers; the same amount of working mothers and fathers think their employer would prefer they find another job.
Those fears are undoubtedly stressful for new parents — and could also eventually result in productivity-damaging disengagement. Thirty-seven percent of working parents said they felt resentment toward their employer due to work-life balance stress in a recently published study of U.K. working mothers and fathers.
More than half said they’d be more loyal to an employer that provided a good work-life balance, and 55 percent felt that would make them more productive.
To prevent disengagement from happening after maternity or paternity leave, companies can take steps to make the transition process less abrupt for working parents — such as:
Clarify the post-leave schedule
Maternity leave varies per country; no matter what the allotted time period is, some women may want to return early — or, due to health or other concerns, take additional time off. Confirm what maternity or paternity leave end date new parents are targeting to ensure there’s no confusion and your company will be able to begin preparing to phase the employee back into operations at the right time.
Create a post-leave re-acclimation package
Don’t assume employees have read every email sent while they were on leave — or that they can get caught up within a day or two of being back. Creating a brief summary of major events that have occurred and pairing new parents with the co-worker who served as their back-up during leave can help them quickly get up to speed.
Consider flex schedule options
Offering reduced hours or allowing working parents to work remotely for a few weeks after maternity or paternity leave officially ends can help them ease back into a 9-to-5 schedule. More U.S. organizations are allowing employees to return to work gradually after a birth or adoption; the percentage has increased from 73 percent in 2012 to 81 percent in 2016, according to a study released by the Society for Human Resource Management.
New parents aren’t the only employees who may benefit from a flexible schedule. Offering nontraditional hours can be a selling point for older employees, ones who are pursuing an education and other workers.
For tips on instituting flex hours for working mothers and fathers, students and other employees, view our blog posts on some of the most popular best practices, utilizing part-time employees and ways you can use flexible schedules and other techniques to retain retirement-age workers.