Returning from maternity or parental leave can be an incredibly stressful time for your employee, so you need to help make the transition as easy as possible for them. They have probably got a lot of mixed emotions about coming back, and it is likely that this will be the first time they have been away from their child for any extended period of time.
While they might be excited about returning to work, they will probably also be a little nervous. A lot of things can change in a business over six-months to a year, and this article aims to provides some tips to help with their return.
Return to work conversation
Hopefully, while your employee has been off, you have kept in touch to see how they are doing, and to confirm when exactly they want to return to work. Once they are back, you should set up a return to work meeting with them. In this meeting, you can have an informal chat in order to fill them in on any changes to the business or their job role.
Legally, they are entitled to the same job under the same terms and conditions as they left, but if changes have occurred you will need to update them. Maybe they used to work a night shift which they cannot do anymore, so you can discuss with them a change of hours in this initial conversation.
Offering flexible working makes your workplace much more appealing to all employees, but it can be really great for people returning from maternity leave or parents with small children. Your employee might benefit from job sharing, staggered hours, or the chance to work from home so that they can manage both their work and family commitments.
Your employees have the right to ask for flexible working if they have been in your employment for 26 weeks or more (including maternity leave), but it is not a legal obligation for you to allow it. Offering flexible working can be really advantageous to your business though, as it increases staff retention, loyalty and workplace satisfaction, leading to a happier and more productive workplace in the long run.
Practical tips for easing their return
There are some really straightforward steps that you can implement in your business to help an employee who is returning from maternity leave. You could suggest that:
They leave their out of office on for a few days after their return: Emails will have piled up while they have been away, and leaving the out of office on for a little longer can give them the chance to get on top of the old before dealing with the new.
Bring them back on a Wednesday: Having a shorter week can help them ease back in without getting overwhelmed.
Plan for illness: They might feel awkward about asking for time off once they have just come back, but they, or the child, might get ill. New environments have lots of new germs, so it might take a little while to build an immunity up.
Prepare for a confidence dip: They have been off for a while, so they will need to build their confidence back up before they are fully productive again. Give them the chance to ask questions and provide support to help them find their feet again.
Help them make the most of their lunch break: To free up some time for them when they are not at work, let them do their online grocery shop, book appointments or exercise during their free time over lunch. It can help make their private time less stressful and make them happier at work.
Encourage them to meet with their colleagues before returning: There will be some colleagues they are close with at work, and you should encourage them to arrange a coffee and a catch up before coming back. It can help minimise some worry about returning and give them chance to catch up on what they have missed.