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Hi hi. I’mmmm backkkkkkkk…. please do excuse my Eminem title. I just couldn’t help myself.

So yes, I’m finally on the road to coming back to Precept after over 8 months with my beautiful, sassy, cheeky Halle. About time I hear you say! So I’ve been doing a few KIT days and then I’ll be doing a phased return back to eventually work 4 days per week. I’ve very much missed my Precept family so can’t wait to get back into the full swing of it.

Maternity leave has been an absolute whirlwind of emotions and wowwwww have I learnt so many things:

  1. Women are actual superwomen for what their bodies go through pre and post baby
  2. Mum guilt is REALLLLL– wow has that been a constant smack in the face
  3. Your mind never rests.. ever
  4. The phrase ‘it’s just a phase’ gives me a nervous twitch
  5. I never knew naps could give you PTSD
  6. How you worry about everything – ooo they’ve eaten more than usual today, ooo they’ve eaten less than usual today. Literally cannot win
  7. The crazy battle between wanting to go back to work but then feeling bad for wanting to do that

Now I could go on and on and on.. I’m constantly learning and realising so much buttt let’s get onto the main reason for this blog shall we.

So, one of the biggest things I observed whilst being on maternity leave is how incredibly bad the majority of women seem to be treated by their employers whilst they are on maternity leave. By being fully in it, I was able to see firsthand the amount of struggles so many women were having. Whether it was the fact their employers made no contact with them whatsoever during their leave, completely ignored any contact they made, gave ultimatums to them when it came to them having their RTW chat or simply didn’t even know they worked their anymore. There were also many instances where women would return to work and would have no support whatsoever and would just be expected to hit the ground running.

It was so sad to hear that so many women are having these struggles, particularly when throughout my maternity leave Precept could not have supported me more than they did. Not only did I still feel part of the team even though I have been off, I have been included in any way possible, checked in on and felt absolutely no pressure about my return to work.

So to make sure you are making your employees feel the way my employer has keep reading on to hear about our top tops!

  • Before: make sure you’re clear on what’s expected of everybody

 When an employee tells you they’re pregnant, they’re likely to come to you as a source of information and support about workplace issues. You are probably sick of us telling you this, but there’s a reason we do: make sure you’ve got proper policies in place and make sure you’re know and understand what they say. Clarity from you is going to be key. If you’re not clear, they’re not clear, it’s going to cause unnecessary stress and worry.

So. Familiarise yourself with what you need to know. Remind the member of staff of when she needs to give formal notice of her plan to take maternity leave, make sure she knows about her right to take time off to attend ante-natal appointments and please, please, please make sure you’ve properly risk assessed any health and safety concerns in the lead up to somebody starting maternity leave.

  • During: don’t forget about people who are on maternity leave

Can you believe that I’ve spoken to mums where their employer has just forgotten they existed. That’s just not on is it?

Look, I get it. Sometimes employers are scared to keep in touch with staff who are off on maternity leave. They don’t want to be seen to be pressuring them.

But, remember! You absolutely can and should maintain reasonable contact with staff who are off on maternity leave. What’s reasonable? Well, that’s going to look different in each individual scenario. So, speak to your member of staff before they start their maternity leave and agree what reasonable contact will look like. Do they want regular updates or just a quick email for any major changes? And for goodness sake, if they do contact you, do not just ignore them!

One thing you should remember is that you must absolutely make sure they are included in any formal processes that might impact them (so, for example, redundancy processes).

  • After: manage the return to work properly

Imagine being a new mum and having your employer email you constantly asking “when you are coming back?” Remember, as a starting point, unless your employee tells you otherwise their maternity leave will last for the full 52 weeks. If they want to return earlier then they need to give you at least 8 weeks’ notice of this. So respect that. Obviously, you can have conversations with them about their potential return to work as part of your regular catch ups but it should very much be based on “have you had any ideas about returning to work? There is no pressure from us. We are here to support you.”

Imagine also, being that new mum expected to return on day one after maternity leave and. Poof! You must act like nothing had happened and you’ve never been off. That’s probably not going to work very well so I’d suggest working with staff returning from maternity leave to manage that process properly.

It could be that they use their 10 KIT days or annual leave to gradually build up the work they’re doing. Try and work with them constructively to accommodate flexible working requests wherever you can. But if that’s not possible, then it could be something really simple like agreeing regular touchpoints as they return to work to make sure they’re fully up to speed with any changes and also to make sure they’re managing with the massive change. Again, you probably want to sit and talk to them about what that looks like – it’s a fine balance between being supportive and being completely overbearing/micromanaging them.

I think there’s one key theme throughout all of this: clear communication is key. Absolutely you should communicate in a sensitive way that feels natural to you, but whichever way you go about it, make sure you communicate clearly and effectively.

Why is this important? Well obviously you could risk messing up completely and land yourself with a claim for pregnancy and maternity discrimination (hello, Precept are here to help if that does happen) but more importantly, you’re just going to make your member of staff feel underappreciated and like complete rubbish. That’s not going to be the best way for them to welcome their baby into the world or to return to work is it? Putting a little bit of work into getting it right from the outset is going to save everybody from a world of pain in the long-run.

Hopefully the above helps to guide you with the way you need to be treating your employees on maternity leave. Believe me- if you set these foundations now and actually work with your employee during their maternity leave you will have a much happier employee and in turn one that wants to stick around and work hard.

If you have any questions on any of the above or want us to run through your maternity leave policy then please just give us a shout.

That’s it from me for now- but I will be back again soon!