Tuesday September 8 2015

Helping Employees Get Back To Work After Maternity Leave

Helping Employees Get Back To Work After Maternity Leave

By Nichola Ansbro, call centre manager at officekitten.co.uk

As a working mum, I’m very proud of how I balance the office with home. But I couldn’t do it without the support of my bosses. They have been incredibly understanding and, as a result, I am very diligent and loyal. This is because I know this level of support isn’t provided everywhere.
Coming back to work after maternity leave was a challenge for us all. The business was new and, the reality is, it’s hard for a small company when staff take an extended period of leave. No matter how kiddie-friendly the organisation is. However, there were a few things that aided the transition for me and are worth considering as a small business owner as these tactics were beneficial to all.
Getting the right advice, pre-maternity
Before a staff member leaves for maternity, I’d recommend getting a HR consultant to come in and talk through their rights, and yours, for two key reasons. Firstly, throughout their pregnancy you have to ensure you’re not seen as influencing their decision. So having an external consultant ensures staff receive advice that is impartial. Secondly, they will provide handholding support for all involved. In all likelihood it will be a first for both you and the pregnant employee and, as a result, neither of you will know things like how holiday is accrued, the pay they’re entitled to and what you can and can’t say. These are important things you both need to know, but don’t have time or the headspace to research.
Keep in touch
Keeping in touch days are a fantastic way to help parents on maternity leave ease back into work. In my case, it was good to remind my brain how to manage the thought processes required for work. After all, I had just spent nine months concentrating solely on keeping my baby well, safe and happy. However if you want to return to your old job, you have to get up to speed. KIT days give you a buffer in which to get match fit, and learn how to juggle the nursery pick-ups and drop-offs! For my employers, it meant I could hit the ground running as soon as I returned full-time.
Ensure they feel part of the team
I loved the fact the office kept in touch with me, socially. I was invited to the Christmas do and that was really important. It ensured I always felt part of the team and meant I never thought of looking for another job, or considered staying at home. I wanted to go back.
Flexible working
Almost all employees in every business have a right to request flexible hours. You, of course, have the right to decline. However offering a level of flexibility (because you realise staff work to live) will mean you get a motivated, grateful workforce in return. I’m under no illusions. The flexibility Office Kitten offers is not available in many companies. It is a perk that I benefit from and hugely appreciate. I always work my contracted hours. It’s just with flexible working, I can work around the things that sometimes have to take priority in the working day. Such as taking my little girl to the doctors when she’s ill.
In the age we live in, technology is constantly transforming the way we work. Which is music to all our ears if flexible working is a go-er. If you can, provide all staff – not just parents – with a means to log-in at home. This means that even if your resident mum or dad has to rush off at 5pm to collect their child from nursery, they have the option to resume their work at home. I am very conscientious and I would find it very stressful if my ability to work was physically restricted to the office. I would rather get my laptop out once my baby is in bed, than grow anxious knowing there’s a half-finished job on my desk for the morning. So it’s win:win. You benefit from my work ethic and I benefit from your investment in a remote way of working.

By Nichola Ansbro, call centre manager at officekitten.co.uk



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