Returning from maternity leave can be an incredibly stressful time for your employee, so you need to help make the transition as easy as possible for them. They’ve probably got a lot of mixed emotions about coming back, and it’s likely that this will be the first time they’ve been away from their new-born for any extended period of time. While they might be excited about returning to work, they’ll probably also be a little nervous, and not just about leaving the baby.
A lot of things can change in a business over a year, and this article will help you bring an employee who’s returning from maternity leave back into work.
Return to work conversation
Hopefully, while your employee has been off, you’ve kept in touch to see how they’re doing and to confirm when exactly they want to return to work. Once they’re back, you should set up a return to work meeting with them, to have an informal chat to fill them in on any changes to the business or their job. Legally, they’re entitled to the same job under the same terms and conditions as they left, but if changes have occurred you’ll need to update them. Maybe they used to work a night shift which they can’t do anymore, so you can discuss with them a change of hours in this initial conversation.
We’ve got some great tips to help you have 1-1s with your staff here.
Offering flexible working makes your workplace much more appealing to all employees, but it can be really great for people returning from maternity leave or parents with small children. You employee might benefit from job sharing, staggered hours, or the chance to work from home so that they can manage both their work and family commitments.
Your employees have the right to ask for flexible working if they’ve been in your employment for 26 weeks or more (including maternity leave), but it’s not a legal obligation for you to allow it. Offering flexible working can be really beneficial to your business though, as it increases, staff retention, loyalty and workplace satisfaction, leading to a happier and more productive workplace in the long run.
Practical tips for easing their return
There are some really straightforward steps that you can implement in your business to help an employee who’s returning from maternity leave. You could suggest that:
- They leave their out of office on for a few days after their return – emails will have piled up while they’ve been away, and leaving the out of office on for a little longer can give them the chance to get on top of the old before dealing with the new.
- Bring them back on a Wednesday – having a shorter week can help them ease back in without getting overwhelmed.
- Plan for illness – they might feel awkward about asking for time off once they’ve just come back, but they, or the child, might get ill. New environments have lots of new germs, so it might take a little while to build an immunity up.
- Prepare for a confidence dip – they’ve been off for a while, so they’ll need to build their confidence back up before they’re fully productive again. Give them the chance to ask questions and suggest they take a look at this article to help them find their feet again.
- Help them make the most of their lunch break – to free up some time for them when they’re not at work, let them do their online grocery shop, book appointments or exercise during their free time over lunch. It can help make their private time less stressful and make them happier at work.
- Encourage them to meet with their colleagues before returning – there will be some colleagues they’re close with at work and you should encourage them to arrange a coffee and a catch up before coming back. It can help minimise some worry about returning and give them chance to catch up on what they’ve missed.