As an employer or manager, you’ll more than likely, at some point, have a member of your team welcome a new addition to their family. Whether it’s a female employee having a baby or a member of your team’s partner having a baby, both will need support during this exciting but exhausting time of life.
You’ll be familiar with the maternity and paternity entitlements your employee has. Making sure they understand their entitlements is fundamental to your role, but there are other things to consider.
Welcoming the baby
The arrival of a new baby is often an exciting and joyous time. But be aware that birth isn’t always straightforward, and some babies can arrive prematurely or have health problems. Consider how you communicate the news of your employee’s newborn to other members of your team if things weren’t plain sailing. Be sensitive to the situation and make sure the parents are happy for others in the company to know certain details, if anything at all.
It’s common practice to send congratulations to your employee from your team and the wider company. But this might not be appropriate if the baby or mother isn’t well. Sending a form of acknowledgement, such as flowers, instead of a ‘congratulations’ or ‘new baby’ card will let your employee know you’re thinking of them.
Encourage paternity leave
Not all fathers and partners take their full paternity leave entitlement.1 This might be due to work pressures or fear of falling behind. Remind your employee that they have the right to take their paternity leave within eight weeks of the birth of their baby. They therefore have the choice to take their leave immediately or wait until their baby goes home after a hospital stay.2
Discuss flexible working
Flexible working is now engrained in most companies’ culture. It’s a great way to retain valued staff when changes occur in their personal life, for example, when having a baby. There are different ways of working flexibly – your employee may want to shift their hours to start later or finish earlier, or perhaps they want to work part of the time at home.3
Be open to flexible working requests – whether it’s the father/partner asking, or a mother returning to work following maternity leave.
Many employees want to change their working hours to help them balance work when they have children. It might just be a temporary solution. For example, if a woman has birth complications and needs help at home while she recovers, an easy solution is to agree to flexible working for her partner for a few weeks.
Keep in touch
While on maternity or paternity leave, your employee is still an employee. You have a duty to keep them informed of things like organisational changes, job vacancies, or changes to practices and policies.4 Before your team member goes on maternity or paternity leave, ask them how they would like to be contacted during that time.
- You could suggest monthly phone calls.
- Maybe meeting in person for a coffee now and then would suit them better.
- Your employee might want to introduce their new baby to the team – this could be a good way to tie in a catch up.
Remember, during the first few weeks, your employee will have their hands full, and may potentially be sleeping at points through the day while they’re coping with sleepless nights. Be sensitive to how and when you contact them, if you need to.
Women returning to work
Eight out of 10 women will become mothers during their working life, so you’re very likely to facilitate the return to work for several of your employees.4
One way of managing a smooth return to work for your employee is to create a phased start. This will allow them to catch up on work activities without feeling overwhelmed, as well as refresh skills.4
It’s common for a returning mother to feel anxious about having the ability to do her job alongside motherhood, or to even leave her baby in the care of someone else. A phased approach is a great way for a woman to get back into the swing of work and figure out how timings, travel and childcare options will work best around it.
- Encourage KIT (keeping in touch) days towards the end of their maternity leave.5
- Any holiday that’s accrued during maternity leave can also be used to create part-time working hours for their first few weeks back.5
Becoming a new parent is hard enough. Being a supportive manager can make the world of difference to fathers and mothers alike during a time of adjustment and change. If you need more advice, visit the below websites.
- 1 Fathers and the Workplace. House of Commons. Women and Equalities Committee. publications.parliament.uk, published March 2018
- 2 Paternity pay and leave. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, accessed 19 March 2019
- 3 Flexible working. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, accessed 19 March 2019
- 4 Returning to work. A guide for employers. NCT. www.nct.org.uk, accessed 19 March 2019
- 5 Employee rights when on leave. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, accessed 19 March 2019