Employer support for new mothers lacking

Four in 10 considered quitting during transition back to work

Employer support for new mothers lacking
Forty per cent of new mothers say they considered quitting during their return to work, finds a survey.

The supports for Canadian women who go on maternity leave are sorely lacking, judging by a new report.

Nearly all (95 per cent) women who took maternity leave from their workplace in the last 10 years did not receive any formal support during this transition, found a survey of 1,090 Canadians by Moms at Work, a community group for working mothers.

Nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) were not provided options for communication during their maternity leave, such as remaining on an email list, having an out-of-office for their email, and being informed of company announcements or changes, awards, details about colleagues, promotion opportunities or internal job postings.

Return-to-work challenges

Notably, 58 per cent of workplaces do not have formal policies around maternity leave and return to work, found the survey.

More than three-quarters (79 per cent) of the women said they were not provided any options for a graduated return to work. Nearly eight in 10 (79 per cent) women felt that their return to work could have been managed better, with 58 per cent saying their employer was not prepared for their return to work.

“Those that indicated their employer offered some form of maternity leave or return-to-work support noted that it was often in the form of a short workshop or brief conversation with HR,” says the 2021 Maternity Leave Experience Report. “There is much more employers can do to better support women through pregnancy at work and maternity leave such as having formal procedures in place, developing transition plans, assigning a manager or member of HR to help employees navigate the process and offering resources.”

Another 18 per cent say they did not have any contact during this process and 40 per cent say they considered quitting during their return to work.

“Many found the process demoralizing including those who had previously indicated a high level of commitment to their organization,” says the report.

The University of Alberta released a study in 2019 that found pregnant women who work more than 40 hours per week or who work the night shift face an increased risk for preterm delivery and miscarriage.

Supporting new mothers

“Offering support during pregnancy and the transition back to work can help you improve your retention of talented female employees and ensure that they don’t have to choose between having children and working for your company,” says Kelley Zanfardino, human resource compliance analyst at Insperity, an HR solutions provider.

To ease new mothers back to work, Zanfardino suggests the employers do the following:

  • Build a culture of empathy for new parents.
  • Make your leave policy more flexible.
  • Check in during their leave.
  • Consider remote work options for new mothers.
  • Consider a transition period.
  • Add onsite health care.
  • Add a lactation room.

New Zealand recently passed a law that gives mothers and their partners paid time off to grieve after a miscarriage or stillbirth.

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