Ruth Moody
June 5, 2023

Why 28% of return-to-work mums end up in the skip

The most recent statistics around return-to-work mums leaving the workforce prove that this isn’t just an issue for working mothers; it’s a crisis for HR.

Businesses simply can’t afford to lose female talent at the rate that they are.

So why do 28% of return-to-work mums end up leaving the workforce…and more importantly, how can you hold onto them and keep that talent within your organisation?

Retain your talent long beyond maternity leave

Let’s be honest, women aren’t walking away from their careers because they want to. Rather, they report feeling forced out of the workplace and from jobs that no longer support their needs and work-life balance.

These are factors that businesses have to address if they want to be able to retain their talent and keep hold of their female employees.

Understanding the challenges for new mothers in the workplace is paramount for HR departments. Parenthood isn’t easy, and for any new parent they are likely to find that their priorities have changed, their responsibilities at home have increased and their time is more stretched. They are also more likely to feel more vulnerable at work, perhaps less confident as they adjust, and they may well be feeling both physically and emotionally drained.

Far from meaning that they can no longer do their job, new mothers may need different support, training and opportunities than they did before. More often than not, the companies that are most successful at holding on to their female talent are those that recognise return-to-work mums’ new-found needs, desires and responsibilities and understand that women can at the same time be ambitious while also seeking the right work-life balance.

If, as a company, you are not providing the right support, understanding and flexibility for new mums, it’s very likely that your business will become one of many that are losing women from their team at a startling rate…and with them a vital pool of talent, capability and experience.

From a commercial perspective, losing talented women from the workplace and having to find replacements for their role isn’t good for business. It is far cheaper and more efficient to hold on to talent within your company than recruit in from outside; losing that knowledge and expertise built up over time comes at a significant cost.

What can businesses do to hold on to their valuable staff?

There’s no doubt that mothers offer exceptional value to businesses – in fact, they can often prove to be their best asset. 

The good news is, there are lots of strategies that companies can put in place to enable return-to-work mums to feel confident in their role, excited about their progression and supported in their tasks so that they enjoy coming back to work…and crucially want to stay there.

Start with two-way conversations

Leaving for maternity leave can be scary for pregnant women – who will replace them and will the same role be there for them when they return? At this vulnerable time it’s important to help your pregnant employees feel secure in their role and excited about what they can achieve and how they can progress when they return to the workplace. 

Start conversations with your staff long before they go on maternity leave and keep the conversation two-way so both sides are clear, confident and enthused going forward.

Make childcare part of the workplace conversation

When senior leaders openly talk about childcare responsibilities and struggles it can be really impactful in showing other parents that it’s ok to juggle childcare with work. Childcare responsibilities shouldn’t be kept as a secret – the more honest and open your workplace is, the more honest and open your employees will be…and the better results you will see. If women can feel confident within your company that having children neither singles them out nor is ignored, they will be far more likely to want to stay at your company long into the future.

Put clear, structured plans in place for their return

Overwhelm after becoming a new parent can be real, as can new feelings of guilt, exhaustion, doubt and worry. Consider what your return-to-work mums might have missed while on leave and what support they might need in order to feel confident and comfortable back in their role. One quick handover isn’t enough - very often there are important relationships to build, an understanding of new workflows, processes and software to get your head around, and new products or services you need to be across. An employee that feels supported in their role and in what they are doing is much more likely to want to stay.

Invest in new mums

If you want to retain the talented mothers in your team it’s important you invest in them and demonstrate your commitment to them. Consider whether they might benefit from additional training to boost confidence and skills, or coaching to allow them the time and space to work through their challenges and emotions in a safe and supportive space. Investing in new mothers’ well-being, as well as their skills and experiences, is a really effective way to show that they are valued within your company.

Continue the conversation

Just as caring for a child doesn’t suddenly stop at the end of maternity leave, the journey to a successful return to work doesn’t suddenly end 6 months in. In fact, it’s thought that 85% of women leave the full-time workforce within 3 years of having their first child*. Continuing the conversation with mums in your organisation long after their first year of work after maternity leave is crucial if you want to be able to keep that talent within your business and nurture it for the future.

If you’d like to learn a little more about the support you can put in place to help your returning mothers thrive within your company and stay long after maternity leave, please do get in touch - I’d welcome a conversation with you.


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