Too busy thinking about my baby…
Planning for and managing a maternity or paternity leave doesn’t have to be stressful, even in a small team. With one recent research report suggesting up to 54,000 women in the UK left their jobs last year due to maternity leave discrimination, its clearly a big problem for parents and the bosses who are managing them. Not to mention the poor team mates who are left behind juggling the extra workload.
What can you do to avoid adding to the many worries of mums and dads to be in your workplace? And their colleagues?
The good news is that there are tools to help. And by taking care to look after people at this big stage of their lives, ultimately you will reap the reward of a long term commitment to your organisation as well as easing the transition back to work.
First make sure that you have a clear policy in place, and that you are up to date with the latest legislation on maternity leave. Air has a free maternity leave policy template here for you to download and customise. Also include guidance in your employee handbook. You can download a free employee handbook here. Make sure that you keep the maternity policy accessible for all employees in an area like Air’s company policies section.
Remember, the new mum might need to read this before you know she is expecting, and she won’t necessarily want to discuss this with you!
The basics are straightforward, you need to provide time off for medical appointments and ante-natal care, and a pregnant woman is entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave, her partner to two weeks paternity leave.
As an employer you can choose to pay more than the minimum 39 weeks of statutory maternity leave. We’ve known businesses choose to do this in female-dominated workplaces where the team would take a big hit if several employees are of childbearing age and happen to be on maternity leave simultaneously. The small uplift in overheads can more than pay off in favour of long term loyalty and commitment to the organisation post-birth. Which of course means less eventual disruption and expense in recruiting replacements for lost talent.
Sharing the workload
Don’t forget that parental leave can now be shared, if the employee and their partner meet the criteria.
The trickiest decision for the remaining team, is whether to immediately recruit a replacement, or share the workload out. We’ve seen businesses decide to do the latter only to have people become absent due to stress, making a tough situation worse. Instead, maybe think about this as an opportunity to trial replacement employees to take on greater responsibilities and ready them for promotion.
Coping with pregnancy and work
Some women sail through pregnancy and others find it tiring. Even those who are generally fit and healthy may find they are unexpectedly tired or sick. If the pregnant mum is sick, your normal rules of sickness absence apply, with a few exceptions. Try to think about easing additional travel, conference days and periods of standing, and consider allowing more flexibility over working from home. There is a useful free working from home policy template here.
The reality of parenting!
For new parents, they are likely to have very little realistic appreciation of what having a baby actually means to their lives, no matter how many ante-natal classes they’ve been to. We always recommend leaving any conversations about returning, as far as possible, until the new parents have had time to adjust from the fog of sleeplessness, bottles and nappies. The shock of a new arrival can be absolutely overwhelming and daunting, and adding to the pressure by insisting on fixed dates to discuss return to work is just too much for some people to take on.
Preparing to return to work
Some businesses build in keep in touch days during maternity leave that don’t affect maternity pay. This can be a great tool for new mums to adjust back into working life. Air’s free maternity policy template covers in touch days too.
Nurturing the remaining team
While the new parent is adjusting to life plus one, don’t neglect the team in the office. Be on the look out for signs they are feeling overburdened, or worse, resentful. These days, social media is a minefield. In a close and friendly working environment, misunderstandings can quickly develop if the team immersed in the 9 to 5 grind is bombarded with a stream of idyllic baby pictures from the employee who is off. Your role is to ensure that everyone, parent or not, is treated fairly and feels appreciated.
Tracking maternity leave dates and return dates