All too often, time runs away in business and before we know it, it is time to integrate staff back into work after their maternity leave. Many businesses do all they can for their returning staff, but are you really getting the most out of your staff and are you making their transition back to work as smooth as possible? Emma Tice, Partner in the Employment department at Flint Bishop, has written this article to discuss her five top tips to get the best out of your staff returning from maternity leave.
Before we get started, here are some facts about maternity leave:
- Eligible employees are entitled to a total of 52 weeks’ maternity leave.
- The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, the last 26 weeks are known as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’.
- The earliest that Maternity leave can be commenced is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth unless the baby is born early.
- Employees must take at least 2 weeks after the childbirth.
The transition for an employee coming back to work from maternity leave can be a challenge; therefore, it is important to make this transition as easy as possible for them. If an employee was to have a long period of sickness absence, they would more than likely have a phased return to work period; however, this rarely happens with maternity leave.
Planning beforehand and investing time in your returning employees can ensure that you not only get the best out of your returning staff but also continue to add value to your business.
During this situation, it is important to remember that you must follow the Equality Act. These are Emma’s five top tips for optimising the return of an employee from maternity leave:
Tip 1: Planning is crucial
A successful return to work will only follow where you have kept in good contact and maintained a good relationship with the employee throughout their period of maternity leave. The employee should be involved as if they were in the office, but without being too invasive or having too high expectations.
Essentially, you must provide the opportunity for the employee to be as involved as they want to be with work. Therefore, invite them to the annual Christmas party and ask them to come along to team meetings. The more that you maintain your relationship with the employee, the better the transition back to work will be for all staff.
Tip 2: Keeping in touch days
An employee gets 10 keeping in touch days whilst they are on maternity leave and an additional 20 if they opt into shared parental leave. On these days, they can attend work and be paid but remain on maternity leave.
These days are great for annual meetings and other events where it would be beneficial to have the employee attend. You cannot oblige employees to use them, but many employees do not realise they have this option available or they do not know what these days can be used for.
Employees that are coming to the end of their maternity leave like to use some keeping in touch days to facilitate more of a phased return to work period, so that when they come back on their first full-time day, they feel comfortable and can hit the ground running.
Tip 3: Discuss the return to work at least a month beforehand
Discussing the return to work process beforehand means you can access what the employee would like to happen. For example: Would it be good for them to have a meeting on their first day to catch up on the happenings since they have been away or do they have any needs you can sort out before their return?
Tip 4: Open-minded approach to flexible working
Upon returning to work, many employees make requests for altered hours or days of work. This is not always a bad thing and as an employer, you have discretion if you accept their request or not, so do not be worried about receiving these requests. Importantly, make sure you follow the appropriate procedures when dealing with them, but often this can open up improved working patterns.
Tip 5: Health and safety
When the employee returns to work, you will want to complete all the relevant health and safety checks, including a workplace assessment. This is a great opportunity to ask questions, ensure you are providing all you need to for that specific employee. Overall, this sends a positive message to the employee as you are welcoming them back into the office and ensuring you are providing them with everything they require, therefore optimising their work levels and attitude.
If you would like any further guidance regarding staff returning from maternity leave, you can contact Emma Tice on 01332 227 595 or alternatively, you can email her by clicking here.