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The Office for National Statistics has, just this week, estimated that the unemployment rate in the UK is 3.8%, which is the lowest since records began in 1974. The contracting pool of available candidates means that it’s becoming increasingly important for employers to attract return to work parents back to the workplace. Employers have not had a great track record with supporting parents in the past: PWC recently reported that 37% of new mothers didn’t take their full maternity leave entitlement, citing career pressure and the feeling that taking time off would “undermine their standing” with their employer as the main reasons.
This issue is economic as well as social. Simply put, companies will lose out on the highly-skilled talent they’ve invested in. The lost potential means that there is an economic cost to employers if they don’t take proactive steps in supporting parents returning to work.
At Tiger, we believe the thinking around this issue needs to be changed (for example, return to work mums can be absolutely invaluable to your business), so we’ve put together a few practical ways employers can retain their return to work parents.
Understand that their time off wasn’t ‘time off’
There is a huge misconception around the idea that when an employee goes on parental leave , the gap in their CV means they lose their capability to go back to work in the same capacity. However, caring for an infant can be a lot more stressful, tiring and a lot more work than their regular employment. This means that an employee’s motivation to return to the office can be significant, and they’re ready to work at 110% efficiency. They may also see a return to work as a change of pace, more prepared to dedicate their energy to resuming their old role as successfully as possible. With this in mind, sit down with them to fully understand what they’d like to see from their return, brief the team accordingly and prepare a training strategy that will help them get back up to speed.
Utilise their new skills
While every workplace has its unique challenges, the demanding nature of motherhood means that your employee on will have experienced things they never would have in the workplace. Through this new period of their lives, they have actually gained transferrable skills which are too often underutilised by employers. For example, a new parent may have developed their emotional intelligence while they have been away, which can be optimised to successfully diffuse conflicts and manage individuals effectively at work. Another skill they have developed is their time management, as they now have to work efficiently to balance their work and family commitments. Work with your return to work parent to ensure these new skills are working for the business as effectively as possible.
Support them through the process
An employee can’t thrive at work without adequate support. There are actions you can take before and after their time away to help them with their transition. For example, ensure a good handover between them and their interim replacement is in place to avoid any hiccups. After a parent has returned to work, it becomes a give-and-take situation between both of you! For example, be transparent that your offered flexibility is dependent on them getting the job done and managing their time effectively. If you create an environment where an employee feels trusted and the communication lines are open, it will go a long way to motivating them to do their best for you.
Practically, you can foster a positive workplace culture for people with young families with the addition of a few initiatives. Implementing ‘bring your children to work’ and ‘keep in touch’ days will allow both parents and children to feel more comfortable with the separation. Schemes like flexible working and returnship options can be a great way to allow your employee to adjust with their new work and family balance. When they are actually in the office, support through workshops and buddy programs specifically for parents can help when the employee needs support and advice.
If you’d like any more advice about how you can better integrate working parents into the workforce, please get in touch today.