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Five tips to manage your employees’ maternity leave effectively

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Figures published in the Equality and Human Rights Commission report recently detail how many women face discrimination in the workplace due to pregnancy. 

The headline figures (set out below) were shocking and although more needs to be done, it is encouraging to read that 84 per cent of employers believed “it was in the interests of their business to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave” and that “it was important to provide support because it increased staff retention.” 

Even from the employee’s view, four in five mothers said their needs while they were pregnant were supported willingly and three in four of those returning to work said their needs as a new mother were supported willingly.

While we need to do more and continue to support women and working families, we also need to think about how we address this on a managerial level. Managers should think of pregnancy and maternity leave as one of the easiest management issues. How many periods of absence do you have time to manage and effectively recruit for?

Pregnancy/maternity leave is not an obstacle, it is just logistics, which, with planning, can be effectively managed. If the leadership approach in such a way, it will go towards creating a more loyal, stable and productive workforce. Here are some possible ways to achieve this.

1) Time off for antenatal care

According to the report, 10 per cent felt discouraged from attending antenatal appointments.

Many women are asked to schedule their antenatal appointments ahead of time and towards the beginning or the end of the day, but the reality is that most are just told when the midwife is available and given a time to attend. 

It is not easy to manage the time and usually the clinics are near the individual’s home. Often the answer is to permit the employee to work from home that day, so they can fit the appointment around work. 

However, overall it is important to have clear lines of communication to ensure that managers/employees can plan as much as possible to ensure minimum disruption to the business.

2) Treatment pre/during/after maternity leave

According to the report, “one in five new mothers – as many as 100,000 mothers a year – experienced harassment or negative comments from colleagues, employer or manager when pregnant or returning from maternity leave”.

Any form of harassment or negative comments should be formally or informally addressed.

However, managers should consider that leadership sets the tone in a business, and should therefore lead by example. 

The way a company deals with logistics of pregnancy, maternity leave and return to work should be starting point. If maternity leave is thought of as a “pain” then this will flow through the tone of the company and will encourage negative behaviour. 

As a manager, you want to make sure you are working as a team with your employees to address any periods of absence, even giving them ownership of the interim recruitment process.

Continue to page two to read more tips…

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