38 per cent of the women who participated in the study felt that
maternity leave had a negative impact on promotional and career
development opportunities, yet employers were less forthcoming
in recognizing this impact.
The following is a snapshot of a few leading and promising
practices from the research and subsequent publication
Making It Work! How to Effectively Manage Maternity Leave
Career Transitions: An Employers’ Guide. Employers can incorporate
these strategies into their HR processes, if they are not
doing so already, to better engage and retain women through
■■ Establish and enact a communication plan: In collaborating
with your employee, determine whether, and how often, you
will communicate with her while she is away on maternity
leave. Set clear guidelines about what will be discussed and
when, and how communication will be maintained (e.g.,
telephone, email, text, mail or in person).
■■ Develop a return-to-work plan: Ensure that HR
representatives and managers work collaboratively with the
employee to develop a return-to-work plan covering important
topics such as the date of return, reintegration actions and
roles and responsibilities, as well as her work schedule and
career options upon returning.
■■ Conduct a return-to-work interview: It is important to
recognize that an employee who is coming back to work
from maternity leave is likely returning to work under new
circumstances. But do not make assumptions. Having an open
dialogue about changes in roles and responsibilities will allow
both parties to communicate effectively and share aspirations
and career plans.
■■ Implement a re-onboarding process: Managers, coworkers
and/or clients may assume that because a new mother is a
returning employee, she will be able to pick up where she left
off; however, employees need to be re-integrated into their
work roles and into the social environment of the office, which
takes conscious thought and focused attention.
■■ Discuss flexible work arrangements: These options afford
new mothers the opportunity to effectively manage their
work and family lives. As an employer, consider what flexible
arrangements you might be able to offer and how these
can benefit both your employee and your organization.
WORKshift Canada, a non-profit organization supporting
flexible work in Canadian organizations, is an excellent starting
■■ Make use of mentors or a buddy system: Pair those about to
go on, or newly returned from, maternity leave with someone
in a similar role who has already been through the maternity
leave process. This person can offer advice and support and
facilitate a smooth transition back to the workplace.
■■ Consider comeback coaching: Every working mother
experiences the return-to-work transition uniquely and could
benefit from extra support from an objective and supportive
third party. Comeback coaching provides career transition
support to mothers returning to employment after maternity
leave or a more extended period of raising a family. Coaching
can begin in the weeks prior to the projected date of return,
and can continue into the first few months after the actual
return, or as the particular situation determines. This strategy
sends a clear message to the new mother that she is a valued
employee and that you are willing to invest in her development
and support her reintegration into the workplace.
Remember that a mother on maternity leave is still an employee.
Employees on maternity leave are still essential members of the organization,
and still part of the team. Depending on your organization
and the specifics of the situation, there are likely several ways to keep
your employee informed and engaged during maternity leaves. n
Avra Davidoff is a workplace psychologist and Associate at Canada
Career Counselling and the Leadership Success Group. Dr. Laura
Hambley founded Canada Career Counselling and has worked in the
field of career development since 2001.
You can access a free webinar, Making It Work! How to
effectively Manage Maternity Leave Career Transitions: An
Employer’s Guide, by visiting https://vimeo.com/170993415.
OVER 38 PER CENT OF THE
WOMEN WHO PARTICIPATED
IN THE STUDY FELT THAT
MATERNITY LEAVE HAD
A NEGATIVE IMPACT
ON PROMOTIONAL AND
LESS FORTHCOMING IN
RECOGNIZING THIS IMPACT.
40 ❚ OCTOBER 2016 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL