Within the workplace it’s expected that employees will take time off for parental leave. Whether they’re mother or father it’s also expected that for some parents, returning to work might not necessarily be the case.

As the war for talent heats up, is there more organisations can do to tackle this difficult dichotomy?

At many organisations the answer is yes. It might be the absence of policy; those who have not thought through the basics might be at a disadvantage. The Telegraph reported that many women don’t return out of choice and cited high-quality, affordable childcare as an important factor.

Sometimes it’s not just the absence of policy but rather the transition too – how easy is it to come back to work? The support might be there but if there is not a guide to help employees return to work and use their benefits, even the best solutions can fall short.

And there are real risks too.

The Telegraph research found that half of new mothers had mixed feelings about their decision to return to work.  With a growing number of new mothers and millennials predicted to be the largest generation in our workforce population, that’s a significant leak. 

So what can be done?

Reach Out

Communicating with employees while they are expecting and during the new parent phase reminds employees that they are still a valued part of the work community.  It also builds confidence and trust for the employees and says that you are looking forward to welcoming them back.  Keeping in Touch (KIT) or similar communications should be part of your parental leave procedures.

Offer a first year incentive

Smart organisations thinking about retaining employees after they take parental leave are already considering what they can provide to help them through the transition. One great example is Deloitte who provide a ‘Working Parents Transitions Programme’, which offers a smooth transition to and from maternity leave through peer support networks, coaching sessions and guidance on company policies and procedures.

At Bright Horizons our new programme gives parents an extra day of back-up care which can be used for a variety of purposes before returning to work, such as visiting a nursery.

Provide guidance

Help employees find what they need by putting everything for a new baby – childcare, back-up care, discounts and everything you offer – in one place. Be clear with your guidance and make the process simple so employees aren’t searching multiple places.

Have a point of contact

Employees who have questions shouldn’t have to play phone tig to find the right person to speak to. A specialist or a HR Business Partner – someone who can give specific answers – ensures that employees know where they can go to find trusted advice.

Help them see their potential

For families returning to work, the daunting element can be careers – am I doing the right thing? What are my career prospects? Those who feel confident and recognise their potential to excel are the most likely to want to return. Talk to employees individually about their goals and offer opportunities for them to learn, grow and develop when they get back.