There are many issues for mothers to consider when it comes to maternity leave and eventually returning to work. The first for many is: will going back to my job affect my children? University College London recently conducted a study which showed no evidence of ill-effects on a child if their mother is absent during the day.
The second question, however, is one that still generates a lot of debate. Will a woman’s career suffer if she does choose to take full maternity leave?
For many mothers it doesn’t matter that statistically their absence is unlikely to affect their child. The reality is that the maternal bond is extremely strong and many women feel it is crucial to spend as much time bonding with their baby as possible.
However, it’s undeniable that if a new mother chooses to spend the full year away from her job, she misses a vital year of development. So what are employers doing to ease that transition and help female staff members make the right choice for them about when to return to work?
Some companies have already started to go the extra mile to help women stay in the loop while on maternity leave. Asda, for example, recently launched its Mum2Mum mentoring scheme. The programme is designed to support those returning to work after maternity leave. It also serves to help counteract the dips in confidence and motivation that some mothers go through while away from the office. The programme includes mentoring sessions, 12 months of support, and an online network to keep in touch.
Other companies have helped their female employees back into the office by offering flexible working. This means that initially women come in on a part-time basis, or to work from home for some of their maternity leave.
And with new paternity rights legislation in place, many employers are now choosing to proactively offer leave to their male employees whose partners are expecting.
These initiatives are all great starts, but they’re just the beginning. Women should never feel that they are in a position to have to choose between motherhood and their work – nor should they be excluded from the workplace entirely when they have children. Whether they take one month or one year off to be with their child, they should be kept up to date while they are away and their positions and prospects should be just as secure as when they left.