As an employment lawyer acting for individuals in the City,
initial calls with my female clients usually start with "I
came back from maternity leave and…" I was
therefore not surprised by the findings of the Equality and Human
Rights Commission that there has been a significant increase in
discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers.
From my experience - both as a lawyer and a working mother who
has just returned from maternity leave - there are simple things an
employer can do to prevent issues arising when new mothers return
to work. Here are some top tips for employers on how to avoid the
1. Discuss the level of contact
It's always a good idea to discuss the level of contact an
employee may want before commencing maternity leave. Most women do
not want to be hounded with work-related queries in the early days.
Equally, maternity leave can be an isolating experience. Sometimes
the need for adult conversation (instead of repetitive chats over
coffee about whether your "baby is sleeping through
yet?") can be overwhelming. So, check in with your employees
every now and again, invite them to socials and (if they want to
be) update them on general work news such as new joiners or changes
to the business.
2. Keeping in Touch (KIT) Days
Employees on maternity leave can work up to 10 days without
bringing their leave to an end. KIT days do not necessarily have to
be use for "work" but can be for training, strategy days,
or client events. Encouraging employees to use their KIT days is
worthwhile, as it is a great way to stay connected.
3. Return to work arrangements
Returning from maternity leave may involve a conversation about
flexible and/or part-time working arrangements. Modern technology
now allows for remote working, meaning that businesses can adapt to
their employees' modern lives. It's important that you
listen to each request, think creatively about how a new working
model could work and not worry about "setting a
precedent". A content employee is beneficial for business.
Some women may still be breastfeeding when returning to work and
so you may need to discuss the practicalities of this (e.g. use of
a private room to express and fridge space for expressed milk,
etc.). It's important that employers treat breastfeeding with
sensitivity - it's an emotionally charged subject so being open
and non-judgmental is key.
5. Offer Childcare vouchers
Childcare is expensive and there is little government support to
assist until a child reaches 3 years old. Childcare vouchers are a
Government-approved, tax-efficient way of paying for childcare. It
works by allowing employees to use part of their gross salary in
exchange for childcare vouchers. There are a number of providers to
choose from, it's easily set-up and can make a big difference
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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