Updated: Dec 21, 2022
This blog post is a collaboration between Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner, who are both Maternity Return coaches. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.
A member of your team has recently been on maternity leave and it’s time for them to return. You’re looking forward to seeing them but you’re worried about how to manage this period of time and what you should and shouldn’t say.
Having a child can be a major transitional moment in a persons life, and while it’s an exciting time for many, it can also be fraught with complex emotional and practical issues.
The following advice is intended to give you some ideas to ensure that your team members return to work is a smooth as possible for them, for you and for the rest of the team. You might like to share this with them as a starting point to a conversation, then ask if there’s anything they’d like to add.
Know their rights
Because they may not. You should be able to help returning parents with any questions or concerns they may have. Make sure you are familiar with the latest maternity rights, pay and health and safety legislation. ACAS is a great resource if you need any guidance. You should also be familiar with your own company policies, share these with them and offer to chat them through together.
Ask what they want. This phase will be different for everyone, some may want a plan in action for their return to work as soon as they find out they’re pregnant, others may wish to wait. Don’t assume anything, ask them how they’d like to handle their leave and their return and let them know you’re there to speak with them about it when they’re ready. This is going to establish a mutual trust and respect which will stand you both in good stead when it comes to more formal discussions about a back to work plan. Two-way communication is key.
Consider any requests
Have an open mind and give real thought to any requests put to you. Don’t dismiss suggestions without thoroughly considering the logistics first. What may seem like an unusual or unconventional scenario may be something that future maternity returners could also benefit from. As an employer you should be welcoming and supporting parents back to work, and any requests should be met with respect. Assumption of possibility should always be your starting point.
Keep in Touch
Again, this will be different for each person but you can let them know that Keep In Touch days are available to them to help them maintain contact with their team and ease them back in to work on their return. You can agree together how they can be used, are there any whole company or team events coming up that you could let them know about? You can find out more about them here.
Lessen their load Before they return to work they will most likely have a lot to think through, including how their household is going to run, logistics of childcare, commutes, how their team is operating now, what their workload is going to look like, how they’re going to strike a work life balance, and this is just the tip of the iceberg! To lessen the load, make sure that all the relevant paperwork for their return is in place and correct. You may want to send them a welcome back letter outlining dates and arrangements you’ve agreed to give them peace of mind.
Welcome them back! Think about what their first day back at work will look like for them. Are they going to be at home or in the office, make sure their workstation is ready and set up for them, arrange any meetings you can for them to touch base with colleagues and be brought up to date on current work and projects.
Best of luck and feel free to let us know if this blog was useful.
If you’d like more information about how we can support you with return to work coaching, there are links to both our websites in the description below.
Laura is an EMCC qualified and accredited coach with a background in HR and Recruitment. She has 15 years experience of coaching individuals around their professional and personal development. Her own experience of returning to work after having her daughter highlighted that there was a need for more robust support through this transition which lead her to specialise in maternity return coaching. Clients share that they find her to be warm and down to earth, giving them a renewed sense of self belief, motivation and tools to cope in a fast paced and often challenging world. Her coaching approach is grounded in Positive Psychology focussing on mental health and well-being. She see’s her role as providing a safe and calm space for those facing uncertainty and making big changes in their lives.
Sarah is an Executive and Maternity coach with a background in HR, Diversity and Inclusion and Occupational Psychology. A mum herself, Sarah has experienced maternity leave and she has coached numerous women and working parents as they navigate their own journey into parenthood. She brings compassion and empathy to her maternity coaching, priding herself on offering a supportive but empowering space where her clients feel heard and able to find their own way through this stage of their lives.