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From Leave to Loyalty: Strategies for Retaining Employees After Maternity Leave

According to figures from the Careers After Babies report 2023, 85% of women leave the full time workforce after having children. In todays competitive job market, retaining top female talent is more crucial than ever. 

Crafting effective strategies to support and retain employees returning from maternity leave is not only a matter of policy compliance but also a key component of organisational success. This blog explores the top strategies to ensure a smooth transition and long-term retention of employees post-maternity leave.

1. Develop a Comprehensive Maternity Leave Policy

A well-defined maternity leave policy is the cornerstone of retention. This policy should include clear guidelines on leave duration, pay entitlements, and the process for return to work. Ensuring the policy is easily accessible and understood by all employees can prevent misunderstandings and anxiety during the maternity period.

2. Flexible Working Arrangements

One of the most effective strategies is offering flexible working arrangements where possible. This can include part-time work, job sharing, remote work, or a phased return-to-work program allowing employees to gradually increase their working hours and responsibilities. This can help to reduce stress and increase job satisfaction.

A 2020 study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 87% of employees value flexibility in their job, and those offered flexible working arrangements are more likely to remain with their employer. (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). (2020). "Flexible Working: Lessons from the Pandemic”)

3. Parental Support Programs

Access to affordable, high quality childcare is vital for new parents to be able to focus while they’re at work.  Providing parental support programs, such as on-site childcare, childcare vouchers, or partnerships with local childcare providers, can significantly ease the burden on working parents. Additionally, offering parenting workshops or support groups can help employees feel supported and connected.

4. Communication and Re-engagement

Maintaining regular communication with employees during their maternity leave can help them feel connected to the workplace. Ask as part of the process how they would like to be contacted while they’re on maternity leave. You could give options such as regular updates on company news, invitations to social events, and regular check-ins by e-mail or phone. There’s no one right way and what works for one person may not work for another. 

5. Career Planning & Training and Development Opportunities

Finding out what your employees want as they return to work can help them realign their career goals and feel motivated.  Discussing future opportunities and providing a clear path for progression can encourage long-term commitment. You can then identify any skills gaps and offer training where possible to help them feel valued and confident on their return. This can include re-skilling / up-skilling programs, leadership development, or mentoring schemes.

6. Supportive Line Management

Line managers can make all the difference to a successful return to work and the retention of employees. Invest in training for them around being supporting, understanding and proactive in addressing the needs of their returning team members. 

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2016) highlighted that supportive line management is a key factor in successful post-maternity leave retention. Employees who felt supported by their managers were more likely to return and remain with their employer. (Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). (2016). "Pregnancy and Maternity-Related Discrimination and Disadvantage: Experiences of Mothers".)

7. Mental Health and Well-being Support

Returning to work post-maternity leave can be challenging both physically and mentally. Providing access to mental health support, such as counselling services or employee assistance programs, can help new mothers navigate this transition.

8. Offer Specialist Maternity Return Coaching

Offering specialist maternity return coaching can significantly enhance the transition back to work for new mothers. These coaching programs provide personalised support, helping employees navigate the complexities of balancing their new family responsibilities with their professional roles. Coaches can assist with time management, setting realistic goals, and developing strategies to manage stress and workload effectively. This targeted support not only boosts confidence and productivity but also demonstrates the organisation's commitment to employee well-being and development, leading to higher retention rates.

Retaining talent post-maternity leave requires a multifaceted approach that combines the ideas outlined in this blog. By implementing these strategies, you can create a supportive environment that encourages new mothers to return to work and stay with you long-term.

If you’d like to find out more about the coaching programmes that we offer, please get in touch for an introductory conversation. 

My colleague Sarah Turner and I have been busy creating content highlighting the importance of organisations providing support for working parents. As part of this, we created this video series exploring the entire journey of maternity leave, from before the leave starts, through to preparing to return and then the first few months back at work. If you or your organisation would like to understand more about how to support your employees as they take parental leave, please get in touch.  

This blog post is a collaboration between Maternity Coaches Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.

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