This is how start-ups can support employees going on parental leave

As your employee starts their parenthood journey, Harriet Morton-Liddle explains what you can do as an employer to support their return to the office.

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Your employee has just told you they’re expecting a baby – fantastic news! As your employee prepares to embark on an exciting (and sometimes scary) journey to parenthood, you’ll need to think about how to properly support your employee while they’re on parental leave.

How employees are treated during parental leave can affect their happiness, wellbeing and likelihood of staying with the company. It can also greatly affect how your current and prospective employees view your company.

Whether you’re dealing with an imminent mother to be or an employee going on paternity or shared parental leave, it’s imperative that founders get things right.

Make sure there’s a clear handover, with someone to take over their job role

Before your employee goes on parental leave, you should be thinking about how their role will be re-allocated. Will it be divided between existing employees, will you hire a temporary team member, or a freelancer to fill their role? Whatever you decide, make sure you plan and prepare well in advance, so that your employee doesn’t feel stressed handing over projects last-minute and your temporary employee feels confident in handling the role and performing the necessary duties.

A great way to ensure a smooth transition is to hire this person whilst your employee who’s going on maternity leave is still working, so that the temporary employee can shadow and see how the role is performed.

If hiring an extra person isn’t possible, then make sure to gradually split the workload evenly between team members before your employee takes their parental leave, and monitor your team’s workload.

This approach will give peace of mind to employees going on parental leave, those who are allocated the work, and yourself as a founder.

Check with your employee how often they want to stay in touch

Keeping in touch days – also known as KIT days – are a great way for your employee who’s taking parental leave to touch base with the team, keep up to date with important company information and feel included in the team culture.

Employees are allowed to work no more than ten keeping in touch (KIT) days during maternity or adoption leave without bringing their leave or pay to an end. They are also allowed to work up to 20 shared-parental-in-touch (SPLIT) days without bringing shared parental leave or pay to an end.

KIT days are optional and should be agreed between yourself and your employee when they happen and if they want them at all. Some employees will simply want to switch off from work and enjoy parenthood.

Whatever you decide, be open and flexible, as what’s agreed initially may change over the course of their leave.

Do not change their role whilst they’re on parental leave

Make sure that when the employee returns, their role hasn’t changed. This could not only cause anxiety and stress for employees returning to work, it may also be considered maternity discrimination if their role has been demoted or changed, or their responsibilities have been given to colleagues.

If, for whatever reason, the role has to be changed, make sure to communicate this with your employee in good time and explain whether it’s temporary or permanent, and the reasoning for this, as well as how it will affect their return to work.

Give your employee a flexible schedule when they return to work

When your employee’s parental leave comes to an end, it’s incredibly helpful for employers to be as flexible as possible – even if it’s just for the first few months that employees return to work.

Being a new parent can have a big impact on an employee’s physical and mental wellbeing, so having a supportive employer is crucial.

Whilst some employees might be happy to jump back into the routine of full-time work, for others it can be stressful, overwhelming and anxiety-inducing so having an open conversation about flexible working is essential.

It may be that they return to work on a part-time basis for the first few months, you allow them to work remotely, and then gradually build their days back up when and if they feel comfortable to do so.

Ensure there’s someone who can support their return to work

Additionally, when your employee does return to work, make sure either yourself or someone on the team are present to welcome them back, either on a call or in the office.

Coming back to work can be overwhelming, so having someone to support them in that transition is critical to reduce your employee’s stress or anxiety about their return.

Schedule in a check in to see how they are doing, discuss the plan for easing them back into work and be sure to regularly meet with them in the first few weeks to check in on how they’re doing.

Becoming a parent is no easy feat, and having a supportive employer will make the world of difference. It will also set an example for your entire company on how you support employees through a huge milestone in their life, and your ability to retain and nurture your employees.

Harriet Morton-Liddle, co-founder of Nugget Savings Nugget Savings
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