Pregnancy and returning to work

Tips for team managers: pregnancy and returning to work

21 June 2021

3 in 4 mothers (75.6%) with dependent children were in work in the UK in 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics. This has grown a lot over the last 20 years, with 66.5% of mothers in employment in 20021. With so many women returning to work following having children, it’s vitally important to be proactive with managing the transition from maternity leave back into the workplace, to ensure a more positive experience all round.

What challenges do new parents face?

Although there’ve been big changes over the years to provide more support for women returning to work, there are still steps that can be taken to help them feel positive about the workplace. 

It’s also important to think about the support in place for expectant or new dads. How business culture supports both maternity and paternity leave is just one of the aspects that can affect colleague engagement.

Tips for helping your team

  • Implement clear and consistent maternity and paternity policies that are easy for all employees to review without judgement. This makes sure everyone is treated fairly.
  • Consider the physical impact of pregnancy in the workplace: a regulatory risk assessment must happen when an employee lets you know they’re pregnant, if one doesn’t already exist. This is to review work and check for any aspects of the job role that may have a negative impact on the pregnancy.
  • Having a family can mean extra challenges and pressures as parents adjust to juggling work and home life, so consider supporting your employees with managing stress, by having regular conversations about workloads and any adjustments needed. Women can experience depression before, during and after pregnancy, or a combination. Men can also experience depression and anxiety around the time of becoming a parent, which shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • Keep employees updated when they’re away. Employees are currently entitled to use 10 keeping in touch (KIT) days to work or stay in touch with the team when on maternity or adoption leave, as well as an extra 20 days during shared parental leave. It’s a good idea to think ahead about how these might be used, for example for key events.
  • Discuss any working arrangements: employees may prefer a phased return to work, more permanent flexible arrangements, or a return to their pre-existing work pattern. Try not to make assumptions. Each person is different and if you have a good relationship it can help to discuss the possibilities early on.
  • Make sure you have a good return-to-work plan in place and be clear about expectations. It can take people different amounts of time to adjust. Think about setting up a buddy to help with the transition and discuss any other requirements such as arrangements to support breastfeeding.

1 Families and the labour market, UK: 2019, Office for National Statistics, 2019 (all statistics)