Re-engaging talent post-maternity leave

Recently published research on the experience of over 300 women returning to work post-maternity across 28 industry leading firms has provided a good insight into the real issues facing returners

The research titled, Re-engaging talent post-maternity leave: enablers and barriers to positive reintegration, was conducted by the Dublin City University (DCU) Business School in association with HR Search. 

While some of the women acknowledged they received support from their organisation, line managers and colleagues, the majority of the women expressed concerns over returning to work. This ranged from not feeling welcomed, lack of available role, lack of flexibility, lack of support from line managers and colleagues and lack of recognition of contribution prior to maternity leave. In terms of emotion, while 72% felt determined about returning to work while on leave, only half felt same at the end of the first day back at work. Again only a quarter felt excited at the end of the first day back at work compared with 40% that felt this way while on leave. 

From the interviews, the report highlighted three categories of issues: career derailment, unconscious biases amongst colleagues and a deterioration of professional relationships. While many of the interviewees felt that their career had halted, many felt they experienced unconscious bias from colleagues that made returnees feel less-valued as a result of becoming a parent. This contributed to the deterioration of professional relationships, which was the third main issue.    

While one participant expressed concern that a company she had worked hard in for 10 years did little to reintegrate her back to work,  in hindsight, another participant stated that she should have known that, ‘if I was gone they had no particular loyalty to me’. So what is wrong in giving ‘loyalty in return’ for the services and loyalty returners had shown to the organisation prior to maternity leave? This brings us to the question of how organisations approach the process of reintegration post-maternity leave.

According to the report, ‘while organisations spend heavily on sophisticated on-boarding programmes for newcomers and graduate recruits, we found that almost none pay the same level of attention to resocialisation post-maternity leave. This is a lost opportunity to support talent in whom they have already invested’. 

As part of the CIPD’s commitment to continuously push diversity and inclusion agenda, we believe organisations need to take proactive steps to address this issue by becoming more conscious and embedding good practice before and after maternity leave. Creating a positive experience of maternity support will help in retaining talented and loyal employees, creating a fairer workplace and laying the foundation to bridge the gender pay gap. 

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