These days new moms are returning to work after giving birth more quickly than previous generations. Still, there is a large percentage of women that do not return to their pre-birth employers after starting their families.
According to a US Census report, less than half of working mothers return to their jobs within the first three months after giving birth and over a third don’t return within the first year. Approximately 20% of new mothers quit their jobs around the birth of their child. The reasons these mothers give for leaving the workforce include: cost of childcare, want to spend more time with family, inflexible work environment, and childcare quality concerns.
These mothers are a valuable portion of the workforce and insofar as companies have the resources to better support new parents, they will have the opportunity to retain good talent and enable new mothers to have a greater work/life balance if they choose.
Plan Ahead Before She Leaves
As soon as a new mother begins planning her leave, management should take stock of all of her clients, projects, and responsibilities and assign a specific team member to these accounts and duties during her time away. Schedule time between the new parent and her transition team member prior to her leave so both the new responsible party and the mother can feel comfortable with the change of reins. This training and prep time will go far in allowing the new mother to focus on what’s important during her leave–her new family, and not come back to a pile of emails, outstanding items, and neglected clients.
A team member’s leave can be a great opportunity for team building with your remaining team as they pull together to cover the missing gaps. It’s also a chance to discover or develop new skills hidden within your current team and cross-train your staff.
Thirty percent of new mothers choose to leave their jobs after the birth of their child due to a lack of flexibility in the workplace. If companies can creatively close the gap between their current approach and a more flexible schedule for new moms, they have a great opportunity to retain many mothers who desire to continue working but feel forced out of their rigid workplace.
Flexibility means not only offering options like altering hours, compressed work weeks, and telecommuting, but also training managers to be sensitive to work/life conflict. Ramping a new mother up to her pre-birth workload and hours is helpful and can be accomplished with reduced hours and remote working arrangements that focus on the mother’s value contribution, not the number of hours logged.
Approach Her as an Individual
Every family and every parent is different and has different needs. Before assuming that a new parent will want to take leave or desire a flexible schedule upon her return, speak with her individually and ask what the company can do to support her. Empower her to make the best decision for her family without necessarily having to quit your company to do so. Show her that you value her talent and contribution to your team with your willingness to consider her needs and accommodate her transition as much as possible.
Offer Dependent Care Insurance Plans (DCAPs)
The most common reason that new mothers cited for leaving their jobs after giving birth is the high cost of childcare. The average family spends about $18,000 per year on childcare and 75% of families are overwhelmed by the expense.
Companies can help new families with this financial struggle by offering dependent care assistant programs (DCAPs), which allow employees to pay for childcare using pre-tax dollars and save their family up to $1,200 per year.
Parents are an important part of any work staff and companies can take measures to make the transition back to work easier for new mothers. The result of planning, individual problem solving, flexible schedules, and financial considerations can dramatically increase the retention rate for new mothers. If parents chose to return to work after starting their families, companies should do all they can to support them in their transition. It’s beneficial to both the mother and the company and can be a wonderful team builder for your entire staff!