UK employers are failing to support their employees as they return from maternity and paternity leave, according to new research by Aziz Corporate. 84% of employers see the value of supporting professionals on maternity and paternity leave, according to recent Government research*. However, many are missing simple opportunities to ensure parents are prepared and supported on their return to work.
Aziz’s Maternity & Paternity survey of UK working parents found that communication between employer and employee was a significant challenge during parental leave. This communication can be discriminatory, short-sighted and lacking in even basic empathy. Over 50% surveyed described communication with their employer during parental leave to be “satisfactory” at best, and this was often only due to the employee’s keenness, network and, crucially, confidence to take the lead in establishing and maintaining discussions. Even then, discriminatory behaviour marred some of these conversations:
“My manager failed to respond to any of my calls or emails regarding my return to work. I enlisted support of HR who also received no response from repeated efforts to make contact…very stressful and I came close to resigning.”
“I had asked for an extension to my leave within the given period and my manager called me selfish. I had to use all my tact to bring the conversation around and get him to agree to the extension.”
Helen Cowan, Maternity Coach at Aziz Corporate, said: “57% of parents told us that they would appreciate their employer simply being proactive in asking them what they might need to make their return a success. 41% would like a better balance between formal HR conversations and more informal, friendly dialogue with their line manager during maternity/paternity leave. These are basic opportunities being missed by employers”
When thinking about returning to work 47% of parents surveyed were apprehensive about the prospect, with 11% having sleepless nights. Many were concerned about the willingness of their employer to be flexible, their own professional confidence post maternity leave, and concerns around how their colleagues would perceive them on their return.
Simple, low cost opportunities to help parents return to work are being overlooked. Helen Cowan added: ‘For the majority of returning parents employers are at the bottom of the list in terms of the support they provide. Employers fall well behind spouses/partners, extended family and friends when it comes to offering the most support during an employee’s return to work. Many companies are failing to recognise that after a period of leave and the life changing arrival of a child the majority of parents aren’t feeling as confident, keen or networked as they once were, and as such are unlikely to hit the ground running without help. The good news is that employers can make small changes that will have a significant impact on their employees’ engagement and productivity as they return to work.”
Four simple steps parents would like employers to take
- Employers proactively asking parents what they need to make their return a success
- A better balance between formal HR communication and the informal, friendly discussions about the return to work
- Employers offering options for the role the individual might return to
- The offer of an independent coach/mentor to help the individual think through career options and the balance between work and family life
*According to a report commissioned by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR) in conjunction with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2016)
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About Helen Cowan
Helen is our Aziz maternity expert and EMCA Professional Certified Coach with more than 10 years’ experience in front line professional services, primarily within M&A. Helen began her coaching career with one of the Big Four, focusing on maternity leavers/returners, senior people leaders and new senior hires.
Clients say Helen’s greatest strength is her ability to challenge beliefs and remove internal resistance. Her strong instinct means she knows when to offer support but also when to challenge her clients to succeed.