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Beyond Maternity: How Employers Can Support Mothers Returning to Work

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Many new mothers struggle with the idea of returning to the workplace if they don’t have secure access to child care or flexible leave policies. A recent Gallup poll suggests that 54% of US women would prefer to stay at home and care for their children themselves. 

That is why this return-to-work transition needs to be supported by employers and other essential members of the organization such as HR leaders.  Below, we will look at those employer-sponsored child care strategies and programs that are beneficial for women returning to work. 

5 Ways Companies Can Support New Mothers in the Workplace

Supporting mothers returning to work after maternity leave should be a core part of every workplace’s culture. A truly inclusive organization should give new parents the tools they need to return with confidence. 

Not only because it is the right thing to do but because it has been proven to drive important ROI-driven metrics such as higher retention levels and low turnover costs. When Google extended its parental leave in 2018, the company experienced a 50% drop in new mothers leaving their roles. 

As your company looks to improve the return to work transition, consider implementing several of the strategies outlined below:

1. Provide a Flexible Parental Leave Policy

There’s no denying that parental leave in the United States is lacking. Many mothers in recent years have been put in a position of needing to sacrifice income to care for their kids when no one else is available. This adds an extra financial burden to the already rising costs of parenthood and child care. 

According to the advocacy group, Paid Leave US (PL + US), one in four women in the United States return to work within two weeks of giving birth due to financial reasons. 

Generous and flexible parental leave policies provide employees with peace of mind knowing that they can allocate time to their family while receiving support from their company. Companies that offer attractive parental leave policies often gather more attention from new talent while driving employee satisfaction and retention rates. 

Best Practices for a Parental Leave Policy

  • Provide a formal off-ramping and on-ramping plan: Poor planning can lead to derailing new parents. Have formal off-ramping protocols in place that ensure the employee’s assignments are transitioned to a co-worker. Additionally, creating an on-ramping plan upon an employee’s return will allow them gradually to take on good and appropriate tasks. 
  • Offer a gradual return to work: A gradual return to work plan take provides leave-takers with a 50% schedule that will make sure employees aren’t overwhelmed or overburdened while taking care of their newborn child. 

2. Encourage an Empathetic Community

Cultivating an empathetic community that normalizes the ups and downs of navigating parenthood not only eliminates the dreaded working-mom guilt but fosters a greater sense of loyalty among employees.

Returning mothers often note feeling isolated in their new role as a working parent, especially if their coworkers are not yet parents themselves. Companies can build an empathetic community by encouraging their employees to engage in “perspective-taking.” This involves asking new parents questions to elicit that employee’s perspective or experience rather than making assumptions. 

Empathy is more than just a nice platitude. Rather, it should be a cornerstone of your company’s culture. 

3. Create a Maternity Return Program

A maternity return program is vital and should never be an afterthought. All leaders should be having consistent communication with expectant mothers before their leave discussing their return to work plan. 

While each employee will be different, having various return to work options such as a part-time transition or working remotely included in a maternity return program acts as a clear roadmap that will ease the inevitable uncertainties that new mothers will have about making a return to work. 

4. Offer Employer-Sponsored Child Care Services

Organizing affordable child care is a pain point for many parents. Companies that offer employer-sponsored child care services as part of a comprehensive benefits package are favored among the working parents of today’s modern workforce. 

There are many options that employers can avail of ranging from in-home care to partnerships with local child care providers. However, the service that new mothers appreciate the most is that of on-site child care. Having their baby cared for in-office removes the guilt of being away from their child while also allowing them to stay engaged as they transition back to work full-time. 

5. Set Up Peer Mentoring Programs

Nearly all new mothers worry about how their maternity leave will impact their career progression. While offering a generous amount of parental leave is appreciated, new mothers need more than just great benefits – they need human support. 

Setting up a peer mentoring program for those mothers returning from maternity leave will ease any anxieties they have about feeling left behind professionally. By teaming these employees up with a designated peer mentor, they can engage in valued conversations and training around critical transition points. 

When provided before and after a parent returns from maternity leave, this helps new mothers reengage with work more effectively. 

Focusing on Maternity Return Instead of Maternity Leave 

Parent-inclusive organizations understand that the personal lives of their employees will change throughout their careers. That’s why conversations with employees that are in the process of family planning should be focused on maternity return rather than leave.

Providing a clear roadmap on how the company will support an employee’s transition to working parent will make the return to work for moms a positive and enthusiastic experience. 

How Vivvi Helps Employers Support Working Parents 

Vivvi partners with employers of all sizes to make high-quality full-time and backup care more accessible and affordable. With flexible offerings and global coverage across campus, in-home, in-office, and virtual care, Vivvi meets the needs of your business and your employees where you are. 

Visit our employer page to learn more about the benefits and ROI our child care offerings have provided to businesses like yours.

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