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Baby, talk is cheap: Real ways to support new parents back into the workforce


Stuart Cameron


25th June 2018


Supporting new parents back into the workforce is a no-brainer. However, there is a difference between saying we support new mothers and fathers and providing real support to see your employee (and business) succeed.


In the last 20 years the number of working mothers in England has risen significantly. With improvements driven by childcare policies and improved employment laws, this is not surprising; however, employers can do more to support these new mothers and fathers that goes beyond the bare minimum.  If employers choose to provide the bare minimum in supporting new parents and employees, they should therefore expect the same in return.

Focussing on new mothers, a Working Forward report published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission state that 84% of employers say they are firm supporters of female staff during and after pregnancy, while 77% of working mothers say they have received negative and possible discriminatory experiences at work. Clearly there is a disconnect to what some employers are saying and what they are actually doing. Research suggests that a majority of new mothers have significant career experience prior to giving birth, which is experience and expertise that companies should not afford to lose. New mothers are also organised, decisive and grounded. This makes them a formidable force and therefore a precious resource to keep on board.

Providing additional support for new parents, and the wider workforce, doesn’t always require a significant financial commitment from employers; they could consider:

  • Introducing a mentorship programme or support scheme with employees who have been through similar experiences and can give advice
  • Providing a clean, private place and time for mothers to breast pump
  • Encouraging short breaks throughout the day
  • Allow for unpaid time off for life events
  • Implementing health and wellbeing policies that help breed an understanding work culture and are proactive in promoting support for new parents

For those willing to go further:

  • Offering flexible working arrangements for those with caring responsibilities, including staggered hours, job sharing and/or work from home where practicable
  • Possibly offer employee counselling services
  • Consider offering paid maternity and paternity leave above the bare minimum
  • Introducing a return to work programme which provides education and specifies leave, support and staggered hours
  • Offering a subsidy for child care assistance
  • Providing access to exercise facilities on-site or introducing wellness benefits across the workforce

It seems obvious (and is supported by research) that raising a family can help develop skills like negotiation, conflict resolution, patience and multitasking; all of the skills that are essential in high performing and high-pressured work roles. Supporting new parents back into the workforce should therefore be a no-brainer?

By Tara Henderson