Are you risking losing £30,000 when an employee comes back from maternity?

The time that a parent spends away from work with their child is precious. Over this period new bonds are developed, routines are created and skills are discovered. With the recent change in law, both Mum and Dad can share their leave; something that has been available for years in countries such as Canada to great effect.

Traditionally returning to work following maternity, paternity and adoption leave has been managed by HR and operational processes, most recently through keep in touch days, to get reacquainted with the role, people and the company.

However, one thing that seems to be forgotten in this process is how the individual has been altered by their time away. This life-changing experience of being a parent (or adding to the brood) will have transformed priorities, outlook and confidence in a way that was unexpected; even to the individual. Unfortunately, most organisations expect that after an initial settling in period everything will be as it was before.

The reality is very different, even in a company where a role is loved, colleagues are supportive and managers are caring, parents can find that the transition is hard. The expectations of both staff and manager is that time has paused whilst they have been away; nothing will have changed. However supportive a company culture may be, admitting that they may feel like they are struggling, that they are anxious about leaving their child or balancing their new “mind set” can lead to stress, anxiety and underperformance.

It is worrying to see how lack or incorrect type of support can impact on a business and individual level. A questionnaire by OnePoll* found that 30% of mothers felt they didn’t “fit in” when they returned to work, 2 in 5 felt they lacked support with almost 20% feeling like no-one understood what it was like to balance parenthood and work.

This isn’t a conversation about companies that are accused of discrimination; this is for those companies that value and support their staff, but are concentrating on getting the work done, and not considering the monumental changes in their employee’s perspective. How many of these organisations are losing talented, high performers as this isn’t being considered?

When I speak to clients and friends about this issue they use words like, “anxious”, “unsure”, “scared” “overwhelmed” and “misunderstood” when talking about their return to work. It is rare that they are able to freely and fully express these concerns to their Managers; they are fearful of criticism or the assumption they are not coping.  Other times, assumptions are mad about what the working parent wants from their careers; promotions are passed over, flexible working request ignored.

The end result is underproductive staff, and very often, a resignation letter.

Research has found it can cost a company over £30,000* to replace a staff member. Yes, you read that correctly; with the cost of recruiting and on boarding staff, you are potentially losing £30,000 every time a parent feels pushed out, undervalued or their career aspirations are not considered.

Through coaching, they are offered a critical friend who, without judgement or expectation, helps to interrogate their concerns, create strategies and grow in confidence, despite the emotional and, often, logistical challenges they are facing.

By recognising that these life changing experience also change the person you can start the conversation early with your staff. Person centric coaching is a fantastic tool to enable the transition back to work. Having someone independent available to them, can help the individual reset their goals, evaluate their skills and strengths and develop strategies to overcome challenges. This, coupled with HR and Operational support, can work to relieve what can be a very stressful and emotional but exciting period of time.

So consider now, how are you supporting your staff back to work after becoming parents?


Clara Wilcox is a straight talking, practical and experienced coach helping clients navigate the tricky waters of returning to work, career changes and professional development. The Balance Collective is a social enterprise focused on improving the lives of parents, by working together to build inner confidence and promote a healthy work/life balance. Find out more via