Parental leave impacts several aspects of employee well-being, including mental health.
A 2015 study published in The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics found that women who took longer than 12 weeks maternity leave reported fewer depressive symptoms, a reduction in severe depression, and improved overall mental health.
In other words, offering parental leave is vital to employee well-being. The more you invest in employee well-being, the more satisfied and productive your team is.
Unfortunately, a stigma exists, making it hard for working parents to step away from work to focus on the health of their family.
However, your employees deserve the ultimate parental leave experience. You need to follow through on a positive experience before, during, and after leave.
Make sure parents feel they belong, are important, and are welcome at all times. If they’re offered shiny perks before leaving but those are taken away, they may feel punished.
How you manage parental leave can make or break the relationship you have with your talent.
Here’s how to deliver the best employee experience for parental leave:
Working parents should never feel nervous about informing their employer they’re expecting. Unfortunately, this is quite common.
In fact, a Bright Horizons Family Solutions 2017 survey revealed that more than 25 percent of working fathers felt at risk of being fired when they told their employer they were going to become a parent.
Combat this issue by teaching your employees about their legal rights and the benefits you offer to parents. Also, appoint a parental leave coordinator to keep expecting parents in the loop with their benefits.
By educating them and assigning a parental leave coordinator, you’re sending your parent-employees a clear message — you’re ready to support them through this major life change.
Leading up to their leave, set clear boundaries and make expectations you have for while they’re gone known. This should include telling parents they’re prohibited from working while they’re on leave. Instead, they need to focus on enjoying their family time.
When they take their leave, make sure you adhere to those rules you created beforehand. It’s very unprofessional to reach out with work requirements after setting expectations with them.
Plus, this hurts employee well-being. They need parental leave time to rest and get accustomed to caring for their newborn.
For the most part, parents should not be contacted during their time out. If you’re bothering them during leave, you will hurt their sense of loyalty to you and the company.
Plus, it makes them feel guilty for taking time off, which yields a toxic relationship between leadership and employees.
But don’t let them forget you care. Add a human touch and send congratulations. If your employee shares their pregnancy or birth announcement with your team, send a gift with a card from everyone.
Your parental leave coordinator should have explained the return process to them before their leave. When their return date is approaching, send a clear schedule to help them ease back to work.
There are several ways to manage their return while keeping employee well-being high.
Flexible work arrangements are beneficial. For example, the new parent can return to their role on a part-time basis, then slowly work their way back to full time. Companies like Amazon and Vodafone use this strategy.
At Amazon, employees go through the ‘ramp back’ program, which includes eight weeks at a reduced schedule. Vodafone uses a six-month timeframe, allowing moms to work 30-hour weeks for their full-time salary.
Being able to have that flexibility when transitioning back from leave will make that transition easier and less stressful for new parents.
Also, offer parent-friendly benefits to ease the burden of parenthood. For example, provide child care referrals and lactation consultants. This way, they feel supported while they take on dual roles of both parent and employee.
Some parents may decide to focus on raising their children instead of returning to work. While this isn’t an ideal situation, you need to consider a few steps when they go.
First of all, survey them to get an idea of why they’re leaving. This is a good way to measure their levels of morale and engagement.
Then, focus on maintaining a connection with them. While returning to work might not be best for them now, they may want to return years later. With a positive rapport, you’re making it easy for them to come back.
Best case, when they’re ready, they will return and continue adding value to your company. At the very least, they will praise you as an understanding employer.
How do you deliver an excellent parental leave experience and boost employee well-being? Share in the comments!