Running Your Business

Have Employees Returning From Maternity Leave or Paternity Leave? Here’s How to Help The Transition


  • If possible, allow employees returning from parental leave to work fewer hours initially and gradually ramp up to their full-time schedule

  • Letting employees work remotely as they figure out child care arrangements will benefit the employee and the company

  • Connect the employee with resources that may help ease the transition to being a working parent

Posted by August 5, 2019

Do you have an employee who will soon be returning from maternity leave or paternity leave? If so, you’ll want to make sure their transition back into the workforce is as smooth as possible.

The first step is giving them the support they need as they navigate this new stage of life. But how do you do that? By allowing flexibility, being mindful and establishing a plan before they take leave, you can help your employee return to work without feeling completely overwhelmed.

Create a Plan Before They Leave

Before their child is welcomed into the world, have your employee write up a plan detailing what time off they’ll need and when they think they’ll return. In it, make note of important dates, who will be covering the employee’s workload while they’re out, and whether any accommodations will need to be made for their successful return—such as a temporarily reduced schedule.

Make this plan a joint effort between management and the employee. In an interview with Benefits Bridge, Lori Mihalich-Levin, lawyer and founder of Mindful Return, a program that assists new parents during the transition back to work, said, “The more engaged the employee is in the process of planning their leave and knowing what they will and won’t take back upon returning, the more engaged they will be in the return process.”

Allow a Ramp-Up Period or Remote Work

Returning from parental leave is a mental (and physical) feat for most men and women. Companies can help make this experience a little less trying for employees by allowing them to come back part-time before returning to full-time status. This short-term agreement can help in situations such as supervising a new nanny or accommodating a daycare phase-in period.

If a ramp-up period for returning from maternity leave or paternity leave is not the right option for your company, another idea is to allow your employee to work remotely for a little while.

Working remotely has built-in flexibility for the tasks that accompany raising a newborn. For example, when working from home, a mother can freely breastfeed her child. It also gives a father the opportunity to bond with his child, which is especially important given that many babies fall asleep early in the evening—not allowing for much one-on-one time.

Facilitate Recap Meetings

Employees returning from parental leave will be dreading a seemingly endless to-do list and an overflowing inbox. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

“Encourage the employee to schedule meetings with peers and supervisors upon their return,” Mihalich-Levin said, “during which they ask their colleagues two questions: What did I miss? and How can I help? These questions help them get caught up, without feeling like they need to read every email that arrived in their inbox while they were out. And it helps them gain a future-orientation to dive back in moving forward.”

Assign a Light Workload

When your employee returns with a heaping pile of work on their desk, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll feel overwhelmed. Regardless of whether you allow your employees to ramp back up or work remotely, try to make their workloads light for their first few weeks back.

However, do make sure they have something to do. Not having enough work can complicate a return, giving your employees more time to miss their babies.

Connect the Employee With Resources

Consider how your office can provide these employees with the social support they need. For starters, child care will be a new challenge they’ll likely need help navigating.

According to a 2019 national poll by Workplace Options, 23% of respondents considered quitting a job because of issues with child care. This can be anything from having to take unpaid time off when a babysitter flakes, to not having enough sick time for both their illnesses and their child’s.

Though some companies are happy to provide in-office child care, it may not be financially possible for your business. In that case, you can offer social support in other ways, such as partnering your employees with a mentor who is also a parent or by creating a support group of working parents in your company. These groups can help returning moms and dads feel less alone and more supported during this new chapter of life.

Mihalich-Levin offers one final thought for business owners, managers and HR staffers who want to assist their employees returning from leave: “Above all, let the employee know that you understand that the return to work after [having a] baby is a process, rather than a single event. That you’re eager to help with making sure the transition goes smoothly.”

For more advice on how to promote wellness in the workplace, visit United Concordia Dental’s Benefits Bridge.

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