Returning to work after having a child can be a difficult transition for both mums and dads. It can be challenging to balance the demands of a new child with the demands of a job, and the thought of leaving your child in the care of someone else can be stressful and emotional.
However, with the right support, policies, culture and planning, your employees’ return to work transition can be a positive experience for both parents and children, while also being highly beneficial for your profit margins too.
Here’s what NOT to do
If you read the news and follow campaign groups like Pregnant Then Screwed, you’ll be aware of a multitude of examples of companies who have failed to support the return to work transition (and who are generally not family friendly).
Here a few examples of things that ought not to happen but we still frequently see:
1. Not providing parental leave for dads. When employers fail to provide parental leave for fathers – or don’t create the culture that encourages them to take the leave – it makes it difficult for them to be involved in the care of their children and can lead to feelings of guilt and stress.
2. Failing to provide flexible working arrangements. Not allowing mothers and fathers to have control over their schedules can make it difficult for them to balance the demands of work and family.
3. Refusing to create a culture of support and understanding. Not educating co-workers and managers about the challenges of returning to work after having a child and not encouraging open communication about work-life balance can create a negative and stigma-fuelled work environment for new parents.
It is crucial for employers to provide the necessary support and resources for both mothers and fathers during their return to work period to ensure a smooth and successful transition for the parents and children, and to retain talented employees.
How to create a great return to work transition
There are some really easy changes you can make to ensure that the return to work transition is as supportive and inclusive as possible. From keeping in touch (KIT) days and open communication, to mentoring sessions and boundaries training. It is possible to create a great return to work experience that will help you retain talented employees and build an inclusive, productive and profitable business.
Give it some flex
One of the key ways to support the return to work transition for mothers and fathers is to provide flexible working arrangements. This can include options such as part-time work, telecommuting, and flexible hours. By allowing parents to have control over their schedules, they can better balance the demands of work and family. Additionally, providing on-site or nearby childcare can help ease the transition and make it easier for parents to leave their children in the care of someone else.
Another important way to support the return to work transition for mothers and fathers is to provide training and resources to help them adjust to their new roles as working parents. This can include workshops on time management, stress reduction, and effective communication with co-workers and managers. It can also include access to counseling and support groups, as well as resources such as parenting books and websites.
Creating breastfeeding positive workplaces
It’s also crucial to provide support for breastfeeding mothers, this can be done by providing a private, comfortable space for them to breastfeed or pump – not expecting them to use the team bathroom facilities. Some progressive employers are going even further and providing lactation consultants or other resources to help breastfeeding mums with this transition.
Don’t forget the dads who are returning to work
It’s also important to remember that fathers often need support during the return to work transition too – a fact that’s regularly overlooked. You can create a culture that encourages fathers to take their statutory parental leave (recent data shows only 30% of men actually take this) and look into shared leave (even lower rates of uptake at 2%).
Many dads want to be involved in family life and play a bigger, more active role in the care of their children, but may feel pressure to prioritize their careers. There are many workplaces still with gender stereotyping ingrained in the culture. We need to break the stigma.
Providing support for fathers to take parental leave, flexible working arrangements, and resources for parenting can help them to better balance work and family responsibilities.
Essential culture change
Finally, it’s crucial to create a culture of support and understanding about parenting and caring responsibilities within the workplace. This can be done by educating co-workers and managers about the challenges of returning to work after having a child, and encouraging open communication about work-life balance.
Returning to work after having a baby can be a challenging transition for both mums and dads, but with some proactive support and creative thinking, as well as excellent policies in place, it can be a positive experience for both parents and children. By providing flexible working arrangements, training and resources, considerations for breastfeeding needs, support for dads, and creating a supportive and inclusive culture, employers can help make the return to work transition a smooth one for new parents. And that’s good for everyone involved!