How to manage maternity leave
Having a good maternity leave or paid maternity leave policy in place can help ensure that female employees want to return to work after child birth. Here are 6 tips to help with your maternity leave policy.
1. Make a small maternity leave payment – with a guarantee they will return: For highly skilled employees, some employers are offering shorter periods of paid maternity leave but requiring employees to sign contracts that ensure they will return to the business, according to John Banks, a director of human resources outsourcing business Talent2.
“This works where departing mums have an intention for coming back – it is no loss to them but gives the employer confidence that maternity leave isn’t a wasted investment,” Banks says.
2. Keep absent employees in the loop: It has to be a two-way street, but Banks says anything from inviting parents on leave to social events to keeping them up to date with major changes in the business can increase the likelihood that they will return.
“A common complaint we see is that mums leave to have a baby, come back the job and find the whole team has changed and it’s not the same, which can be very be isolating and may mean they will not stay,” Banks says.
3. Use technology and trust your staff: Remote technology means many employees can work quite productively from home while caring for children, according to Margaret Kirby, the managing director of recruiting firm iGroup.
“You need to trust your employees to get the work done without someone looking over their shoulder,” Kirby says. “Constant communication can help you build that trust, as well as making sure employees working from home aren’t isolated.”
4. Flexible work hours: Increasingly SME employers are offering their staff flexible work arrangements, with flexibility around school hours and child care being the most common arrangement.
Talent2’s Banks says employers need to talk to staff to find out where their interests overlap. “An employee in a sandwich bar needs to understand they can’t have lunchtimes off, but often employers and staff can reach mutually agreeable arrangements around things like pregnancy, childcare and sickness.”
5. Sometimes they just want more pay: Paid maternity leave may be a hit with women in their 30s, but for many younger employees of both sexes it’s not a big attraction, according to iGroup’s Kirby.
“Most people of Gen-Y age are focused on the here and now – I think paid maternity leave would be attractive for only a very small percentage of them,” Kirby says. “The lesson is really just to talk to your staff and find out what they want.”