19 January 2021

How to support a remote worker returning from maternity leave

New mother cradling baby

Having a baby is one of the most exciting moments in a person's life. However, it can also be one of the most stressful, especially when it comes time to return to work.

Many women feel particularly anxious about returning to work after maternity leave due to a number of different factors – from experiencing sub-standard hospital care, to navigating those never-ending sleepless nights.

With so much going on at once, it can be all too easy for mothers returning to work to feel overwhelmed. So, how can businesses help support a smooth transition from maternity leave back into the workplace?

1. Be alert to mental wellbeing

Around one in five new mothers experience mental health issues, ranging from stress to depression and anxiety which, again, can be due to a variety of factors, including hormones going haywire and a lack of sleep. 

Employers should be aware of this and alert to the fact that many mothers may struggle to return to work as a result. As such, we’ve listed a few suggestions to help companies support women during these difficult times:

  • Encourage open communication
  • Allow for flexible working
  • Provide laptops to help with remote working
  • Regularly check-in
  • Allow for more breaks throughout the day

For further ideas about the ways you can help support women returning to work, make sure to speak to your HR advisor or seek HR external support. 


2. Agree on the best transition process

For some women, returning immediately to full-time work might be too much too soon, especially in cases where there are added complications with the baby, such as medical negligence, miscarriages, or premature birth.

In fact, for certain women, having a smooth transition back to work can make the difference between staying at a company or choosing to move on somewhere that allows more flexibility; somewhere more considerate to their personal situation. 

As such, navigating this balance can be tricky and the requirements will vary from person to person. So, to make the transition process as smooth as possible, a plan of action should be agreed upon by both employer and mother. 

Whether this means a gradual return to work or returning on a part-time basis, the company should be open to discussing these options so that everyone knows what to expect.


3. Stay informed

As an employer, it is essential you are up to date with the latest legislation around maternity rights, GDPR and your business, risk assessments, holiday entitlement, and back to work plans. 

In recent years, there have been a number of new laws passed that help protects mothers returning to work from issues around redundancy, flexible working options, and continuing to breastfeed

If you are unsure about any of the legislation, be sure to check with your HR department and ensure they are trained with the required knowledge to find the right solutions. 

After all, staying informed and up to date with the latest legislation will help you have a much happier and healthier team.


4. Keeping in touch day(s)

A lot can change in the workplace over the course of the maternity leave period and, when left unexplained, can come as a surprise to the returning mother. Why not suggest to your employee that they spend one of their keeping in touch (KIT) days in the office before they return to familiarise themselves?

Keeping in touch days are especially useful for easing women back into work, largely because they provide them with all the information they need to hit the ground running.


5. Offer flexible working

Parenthood can be unpredictable, and it is important that companies are understanding of this; 74% of people feel that employers should offer more flexible working hours for mothers.

Many women returning to work from maternity leave need to adjust their previous working patterns or even work from home to help balance their childcare responsibilities.

Employers must be understanding of flexible working requirements and should deal with requests, practicalities and challenges reasonably and in a way that honours the employee’s needs.  


Final thoughts…

As a society, we can put a lot of pressure on mothers returning to work. 

Women are expected to manage the challenges of raising children and attending to their needs, while also climbing the corporate ladder. With so many demands on their time, many can find themselves struggling to cope. 

Therefore, as an employer explore with your new mother the support she needs when returning from maternity leave.

Gemma Hart

Gemma Hart

Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Since graduating in 2013, Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her personal brand and connecting with leading experts.

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