How to Support Mothers Returning to Work

Part 3:
6 Things you can do as an employer.

Rose McCarter-Field

By Rose McCarter-Field

Want to know how companies such as Google have reduced the number of new mothers leaving by half?  

Women represent half of the workforce. How can you as an employer best support women through maternity and beyond?  

Here are our 6 top tips for employers supporting returning mums. 



Focus on their return to work. Planning their return should start from before they go on maternity leave. Before they leave, establish a plan of gradual reintegration. This plan can be flexible and change on their return. This way, they know that there are plans in place to assist them in successful reintegration. This provides them with confidence that their needs will be supported on their return. 

The transition back into work can bring on physical and emotional rollercoasters for mothers (and fathers). To know that an employer is understanding can reduce concerns and allow for open communications about the needs of your employees. 

One rarely discussed subject is miscarriage and still births. 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and 1 in 160 end in failed births. A member of staff returning from maternity in the case of a miscarriage or failed birth, will still have gone through significant physical and psychological changes. A supportive and structured reintegration is just as important as it is to new mothers.  

In the following weeks and months after their return, arrange scheduled discussions about what their needs are, how progress is going, and how the company can support them in being the best in their role. These discussions should be part of a planned reorientation programme. 



What flexibility do they need at work? Do they need a condensed work week? Part-time hours? Or flexible hours? Where possible, ensure the return to work process supports the new needs in their life. They will still be accountable for delivering on their job responsibilities. Flexibility in certain areas may help them to achieve this. 

Flexible work has been linked to reduced stress levels as well as attracting and retaining talented staff. Parents have circumstances that arise that they didn’t anticipate. Such as a sick child, a spouse’s work needs, and the emotional or physical pain after maternity. 

Workplaces can be supportive of the needs of new parents, after maternity or adoption. And flexibility can be built into post maternity reintegration. 



Breastfeeding for the first 6 – 12 months has a multitude of health benefits for the mother and the baby. 

Nursing mothers need a private place in which to express breastmilk. And ideally access to a fridge where this milk can be stored.  

Having a breastfeeding policy in the office (physical or virtual) supports mothers in balancing their home and work life. These policies go a long way to show your female employees that their needs are understood and welcomed. 


Childcare Access 

Affordable childcare is a pain point for many parents.  

Are you able to provide on-site access to day-care? This can go a long way to supporting work life balance. It reduces additional stops on the route to and from work. Having their baby cared for near the office removes the guilt of being away from their child which also allows them to remain engaged as they transition back to work. 

Or can you subsidise childcare costs to make childcare more accessible to parents? And make the financial decisions around work vs childcare costs easier? It also shows that you as an employer are supportive of employees that are parents. 


Stay in Communication 

Returning mothers have most likely been away from work for 10 to 12 months or more. They may feel out of touch from the workplace. They may benefit from being kept up to date with important milestones and changes, to keep them in the loop. Make good use of your Keeping in Touch (KIT) days, they are important. 

Or if they prefer not to have this communication while they are on maternity leave, you can record milestones for them to see on their return. Make a list of events and activities that you feel are important and relevant to them. You can provide this list on their return. This will reduce the amount of catching up they have to do and ensure they are in touch with current agendas. 

Who are the new employees in the team? What changes have there been in processes, communications, or software? Have they missed any training that they would benefit from, and is there a chance for them to do this training now they have returned? This list could go as far as to include notable happenings, lessons learned, challenges met, and team wins. 


Extended Maternity Leave

Companies including Netflix, Microsoft, and Google now offer extended maternity leave. The reasons for this are primarily to retain and attract top talent. When Google increased its maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks, they saw a 50% reduction in new mothers leaving work. 

It may be tempting to get your talented staff back fast, but it might harm the company in the long run. 

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