Last week I sat in a seminar regarding diversity and the improving gender balance in FTSE leadership, which was both insightful and enlightening.
However, in the audience was an older gentleman, he appeared very smart and clearly been in business a long time. He passed comment about “how do men feel about women coming onto boards and senior positions?” There were many comments to refute his remarks. If this is still happening in business today – despite the number of reports, discussions and targets – I can see why there are still so many issues around the subject of women in leadership positions, and concerns by women when announcing they are pregnant, on maternity leave or when they are due back to work.
The CIPD recently ran a survey and found that one in five requests to work flexibly are being refused, with new mums giving up work as a result!
Companies don’t always get it right, but what I have learnt is communication is the biggest key to engaging and encouraging new mums back to work. I know as a mum there is an apprehension and fear of talking to your manager about being pregnant, going on maternity leave and your return date.
Speaking from experience, I’ve seen companies lose amazing employees who had been heavily invested in and fitted perfectly with their teams. These women were highly thought of, yet we lost them when they were due to come back to work, as we didn’t participate enough with them on their journey to motherhood.
This doesn’t have to be the case, so here are my tips for taking the pressure off new parents and encouraging them back to work without worry:
- Ensure your pregnant employee has a risk assessment carried out and they know what they are entitled to whilst pregnant.
- Meet with them to discuss dates, don’t be afraid to ask questions or open the dialogue early.
- Create a new mums network; an opportunity for the mums to meet whilst pregnant, on maternity leave and for a year upon their return to work, because being at work whilst having a small child adds emotional and practical complexity completely beyond the understanding of many people.
- Encourage ‘keeping in touch days’, inviting those on maternity leave to team meetings, social events and keep them up to date with the business.
- Be clear in communications about returning to work. This allows for open communication and everyone knows where they stand.
- Think creatively. It is challenging when someone wants to reduce hours, or work different days, but flexible working doesn’t mean they don’t still want a career.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen people return on reduced days, varied hours, job share and do a few days of home working. Every company has its own rules and requirements and some flexible working may not work for you, but please think about it before saying “no” to a request.
This improves your employer brand; these new mums are your brand ambassadors and should be treated as such. They could be on your future board.
If you want to know more about this subject please get in touch, we’d love to hear about your experiences, or if we can help you as a business build your own network of new parents.