Line manager’s role in managing maternity leave
As a line manager, you have a critical role to play in affecting how your employee will experience her maternity leave. Taking a substantial time out of the workforce to be at home can be hugely unsettling to a woman’s sense of identity, who many end up feeling isolated and even invisible to her work colleagues.
There are three key stages to any period of maternity leave:
During this time your direct report is likely to be feeling anxious about what lies ahead. This may be in terms of her workload, and what she wants to achieve before she goes on leave, but also from a personal point of view such as feeling prepared (both mentally and physically) for the birth of her baby. More often than not, she will be feeling stressed due to a lack of clarity about work priorities and to whom she can hand over her work.
Ask your direct report “what does support from me look like in these last few weeks before your maternity leave starts?”
Before she goes on leave, ask your direct report how she would like to keep in touch whilst she is off. She will have the option to use her Keep In Touch days and these can be invaluable in helping her to still feel connected to work and less anxious about returning at the end of her leave. Consider assigning her a buddy in the team who acts as a key contact throughout her maternity leave.
Show your employee how valued she is and how much she has been missed by making her feel welcomed on her first day back. Flowers or a team lunch go a long way to ensuring a positive return. Be open to offering her some flexibility in working hours or days as she adapts to juggling her responsibilities as a working mother, and be sensitive to how she might be feeling in the early days back at work. A dip in confidence is very common at this time, and ensuring she has meaningful work to engage in can be key in helping her feel that she is adding value from the start.