I recently returned to work after spending the past 12 months on maternity leave. Transitioning back into the workforce after such a long period of time off was both incredibly stressful and easy at the same time. While I was understandably feeling stressed and worried about leaving my child, I was also put at ease knowing that my employer was going to make my transition back to work as smooth as possible.
I am incredibly fortunate to have an employer that has not only offered me maternity leave top-up, but has also offered a great return to work plan. Although I chose to dive right back into work full-time, my employer let me know well in advance of my return date that I had the choice of easing back to work on a temporary part-time basis which would allow my child and myself to get used to a new schedule. Also of great help was my Employee Assistance Plan (EAP). With one easy phone call they compiled a list of daycare centres close to my home.
As HR practitioners we need to think of practical ways to transition parents back in to work. While not all companies can afford EAP’s, there are a few simple, cost effective ways help parents returning from maternity/parental leave:
1) Communication – Once every few months make an effort to call the employee on leave to see how they are doing and address any concerns they may have
2) Return to Work Plan – Offer a parent returning from leave the opportunity to work part-time temporarily until they feel ready to take on a full work week
3) Modify job tasks – If an employee has been gone for several months, don’t expect them to remember all of their job duties upon return. Arrange for some re-training or a refresher on job duties and tasks.
As an employee, you should also know your rights as well. Did you know that if wages and benefits for employees in your organization increase during your leave, you’re entitled to the same increase upon your return? Of course on the other hand you could receive a decrease if wages and benefits decreased during your leave.
It is never easy for an employee to return to work after an extended period away. But with proper planning and communication, it is possible to ease their transition and ultimately reduce costs and turnover.