• Working Families
  • Retention

How to support parents returning to work after leave

It’s a fact of the modern workplace that employees will go out on parental leave. It’s also a fact that there will always be a concern about whether or not they will return. The question: are organisations going enough to make sure they’re retaining employees after leaving and helping those who wish to return to be able to do so?

At a lot of organisations, the answer may be no. It might be as simple as policy that is missing; absence of the basics can place organisations at an immediate disadvantage. It’s not surprising to hear that childcare has been identified as a key reason for families to return to work after the birth or adoption of a child.

However, it can sometimes not be the absence of policy but the pathway. Is it easy to come back after leave? While the benefits might be in place, if an organisation hasn’t created a guide for people to use them, even the best benefits can miss the spot.

And there are some real challenges. Cheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, wrote that when it comes to balancing working and parenting, 43% of women saw opting out as a better option than continuing to work, and have chosen to do so… at least temporarily. The study cited in the Times article said 61% of women who chose to opt out did so specifically because of family responsibilities. That’s potentially very costly to families, employers and the economy.

So what can you do to ensure parents return after leave?

Reach Out

Communicating with employees during the expectant- and new-parent phases reminds people they’re still a valued part of the work community. It also says that you’re eager to have them back. Such communications should be built into your leave procedures.

Offer Something Just For The First Year

Smart companies worried about retaining employees after leave are thinking about what they can give people to help them get through the transition. At Bright Horizons, our solutions give new parents extra days of back-up care that can be used for, among other things, the chance to experience a nursery or preschool before returning to work.

Provide A Map, Not A Treasure Hunt

Put everything employees need for a new baby – childcare, back-up care, discounts, everything you offer — in one easy-to-find place. Be clear about subsidies, reservations, rules, and registrations. As Accenture’s Julie Wilkes told our webinar attendees, “If your employees have to search multiple places before they can locate something, that’s a miss.”

Have A Point Of Contact

Employees with questions shouldn’t have to play phone tig to find the right person to ask. A specialist – someone who can give definitive answers – ensures people know where to go when they need human advice.

Help Them To See Their Career Path

When it comes to returning to work, the elephant in the room is the parent’s career. And people who feel confident about their return prospects are most likely to want to return. Talking to employees individually about goals and offering opportunities to learn, develop, and network can be effective in helping parents see their next step.

In addition to retaining talented people, supporting working families also helps to recruit new families too. The successful transition of today’s employees from people without children to working parents becomes the advertisement to tomorrow’s prospects. This is very important for millennials who are planned too.

Showing how your organisation supports working parents ensures you’re not only retaining employees after leave – but that they want to come work for you in the first place.


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