Maternity Career Transitioning: During and After the Leave

By Michelle Sande

The first part of this series explained why effective maternity leave career planning is important for optimizing human capital. It also summarized some practical, user-friendly strategies that HR professionals can use with employees in the months leading up to a maternity leave. Now we will share insights on the next steps of the maternity leave management process. Read Part One now.

HR professionals who utilize the strategies described previously can get the maternity leave process carefully set-up and proactively ensure that things run more smoothly; however, maternity career transition management does not end there. Effectively managing employee maternity leaves during and after they occur is just as important as effective management prior to the leave beginning.

Making It Work! During and After
Below is a summary of some additional recommendations from Canada Career Counselling’s employer guide called Making It Work! How to effectively manage maternity leave career transitions. This resource was created using data from three years of national research with employees and employers that was funded by the Canadian Education Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC). The strategies offer helpful insights to employers for during and after employees take maternity leaves:

  1. Implement the communication plan: Communicate with the employee as per her preferences. Some topics to discuss are changes that are occurring at the organization and new projects. Adjust the communication plan as needed. Ask the employee for feedback about how well the plan is working as well as any changes that she would like.
  1. Foster employee confidence: When employees are out of the workplace for a leave of any type, their confidence may suffer. To mitigate this, employers can provide employees with flexible options for professional development while on leave, including webinars or distance courses, if the employee wants to continue developing while on leave.
  1. Comeback coaching: To ensure that maternity career transitions run smoothly and efficiently, employers can offer employees comeback coaching with a career psychologist or internal coach. This career transition support can be provided to mothers who are returning to employment after a maternity leave or a more extended period of raising a family. Employers who purchase comeback coaching demonstrate that the working mother is a valued employee and show that they are willing to support her reintegration into the workplace.
  1. Update the return to work plan: Again, flexibility is important here as things may have changed for the employee or the employer since the return to work plan was originally created. Thus, it is important to have openness to modifying the plan as well as communication about any changes made.
  1. Conduct a return to work interview: Once the employee has had approximately a month to reintegrate into her role, meet with her to get some insight into her experiences. Find out what is working well and what the organization can improve to better support her reintegration.
  1. Promote mentorship: Encourage the employee to seek out mentorship from experienced individuals and leaders, including working mothers. The advice and support that your employee will receive can support her in making the return to work transition as well as in her long-term career.
  1. Consider flexible work options: Optimizing work-life balance is an ongoing challenge for many employees, including working mothers. Thus, flexible work choices are valuable to many employees. Some ideas to consider are working from home, part-time work, flexible hours, and job-sharing.

Complimentary Resources
If you would like more in-depth information on maternity leave management, please review our full employer guide titled Making It Work! How to effectively manage maternity leave career transitions. A complimentary PDF version of this guide as well as print copies available for purchase can be accessed online. In addition, you can access our free employer webinar online.

With maternity career transition planning, similar to change management in general, communication and flexibility are important. As you navigate both the successes and challenges along the way, remain sensitive to your employees’ needs. We at Canada Career Counselling wish you all the best with your maternity career planning.

Michelle Sande, M.C., R. Psych. (p) is a registered provisional psychologist with Canada Career Counselling. Prior to becoming a psychologist, she worked in human resources and career development. She is passionate about helping people navigate career and personal transitions throughout their lives.

Davidoff, A., Hambley, L., Dyrdra, A., Choi, J., Lucas, C., & Teebay-Webb, R. (2016). Making It Work! How to effectively manage maternity leave career transitions: An employer’s guide. Toronto, ON: Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC).

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