Almost 80% of female workers who become a parent want to return to work after a period of leave. Yet only around a fifth of all women who do so feel supported on their return. That includes around 70% working at management level and above.  Organisations need to embed solutions to identify and remove the barriers that lead to that lack of support and are making our workplaces less inclusive and successful.

From the MMB Returner survey it is clear that maternity returners are lacking in support among UK businesses. Only 18% of maternity returners felt happy and confident about work and more than half were worried they would not be allowed flexibility.

Managing changing circumstances

Change is unavoidable in any organisation. There are however, ways to ensure that even in difficult circumstances, organisations and staff can work together to create workplaces which embrace change and use it to create a nurturing and supportive culture that brings balance and respects everyone’s priorities.

Women account for around half of the UK workforce. It should come as no surprise to any of us that some of them will have children during their working life. Yet overwhelmingly, maternity leave is still managed by many companies as something with a negative impact on the workplace.

Finding and retaining the best talent should be the ultimate goal for every company, yet so many let high-achieving, highly skilled workers slip through their fingers.  The average career lasts about 40 years. Pregnancy, and the admittedly sometimes difficult period afterwards of juggling work commitments and young children, lasts maybe 5 or 6. With the right company culture and support, everyone should be able to manage that with the minimum of impact. Losing talent isn’t only a real concern within companies themselves, but has wider economic impacts too, creating skills gaps, negative outcomes in terms of gender related pay and less diverse workplaces overall.

Parmjit's success story

We worked closely with a major retailer where two Operations Logistics roles were held by women. That organisation’s management had identified the need for those roles to become beacons for other women returning to work. They realised it was vital to retain women in these and other specialist leadership roles, and using a maternity on-boarding and off-boarding programme that used the real-life experiences of female returners was the best way to achieve it.

Parmjit Flora, Senior Operations at Ocado shares

“The Know You More coaches have already supported many of my managers by providing a supported ‘back to work’ programme following maternity that helps them excel in their role. My own experience of coaching with Know You More has been excellent: I found the sessions helped change my perspective on what I was capable of and enhanced not only my work life, but also my personal life. Without question, the KYM coaching sessions have made me a better leader. Feedback from colleagues is similarly positive and I’m confident it will produce real long-term benefits for my team.  Allowing us to support our talented leaders and encourage more diversity within our management team and throughout the organisation.”

Since 2018, we've been partnering with Parmjit and her team to deliver a range of 1:1 coaching offers to support career transitions within their fast-paced culture. We’ve used our experience to create a coaching programme specifically designed for female returners. A development programme that explores options, connects to a new identity and provides an independent space for support throughout the maternity journey. It helps answer questions on how the departure and return will be planned and fulfilled, and how to manage the expectations of others alongside those we place on ourselves. Leadership coaching ensures a confident departure and transition back into the workplaces for all types of returner programmes including maternity, paternity, adoption, carer leave and long term absence.