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Managing Maternity Returners: How to get it right!

Having an employee return from maternity leave can sometimes be a challenge to manage if you don’t know the relevant processes and procedures. Retaining excellent, skilled staff is difficult at the best of times so making sure that you get it right with your maternity returner is important.

A lot can change in a business in the space of a year so if you have someone away from work for a significant period of time the company may do things differently. How do you ensure that they settle back in to the business effectively?

An employee on maternity leave is not required to warn their employer if they intend to return to work the day after maternity leave finishes. They are however, required to give 8 weeks’ notice if they want to return early.
Ensuring that there is an effective return to work should start before the employee goes on Maternity leave. It can be a stressful time for the employee leading up to the leave and they may be anxious that their work will be covered. Knowing that there is an effective handover alleviates this concern as well as confirming with the employee how they would like to be communicated to during the maternity leave.

Return to work briefing
To ensure that you enable a smooth return for the maternity returner be mindful that the employee may feel overwhelmed with what may have changed in the business. Therefore, it will be a good idea to carry out a return to work briefing with anything they may have missed during their time away. There could be new systems in place or a new structure in another department that you need to make them aware of. Regular reviews within the first month would be useful.
However, you should have already been keeping the employee up to date with company news during maternity leave (unless she has requested not to). Your employee may also have used the Keeping In Touch (KIT) days available to them. KIT days must be agreed by both the employee and the employer.

Dealing with flexible working requests
In our experience some managers do not manage flexible working requests well and some do not follow a formal process. Some managers think dealing with a flexible working request informally is acceptable however, there have been many occasions where managers have not had the authority to approve such requests and then have had to back track. Needless to say, this can significantly demotivate staff and increase the chances of the person leaving the business. Follow your company’s policy and procedure.
If you are able to accommodate a flexible working request you have to be realistic regarding work load. The returning employee can’t do 40 hours in 25 hours per week.

Policies and procedures
It is very important to familiarise yourself with your Family Friendly Policies so that you are clear on what your responsibilities are with regards to your returning employee. When was the last time these policies were updated? At Peach we can review these for businesses for free. Well worth getting them checked to ensure legal compliance!! Have you trained staff on this? Peach can also assist with staff training.

Risk Assessment
In some cases you may be required to carry out a risk assessment for the returning mother if they are returning within 6 months or are still breastfeeding. It may be that the business needs to alter the employees’ working conditions, hours or offer a suitable alternative of work. Please seek advice if you are unsure what to do at this stage!

An effective and smooth return will save companies money as it will reduce employees leaving and the need to recruit, as well as increasing employee engagement. If you have anyone about to go off on Maternity Leave get in touch on 0161 478 3800 on how we can support you.

Managing Maternity Returners: How to get it right!

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