Maternity leave is an issue for lots of women in the workplace. How long should you take? How will you know when to come back to work? Will people treat you differently after your time off?
These are all questions that can weigh heavy on people’s minds. And their concerns aren’t unfounded.
A study by the Young Women’s Trust found that motherhood has a greater impact on a woman’s career prospects than her level of education.
A similar study found that 1 in 7 managers are reluctant to hire women in their 20s and 30s as they believed they may go on to have children.
Obviously, these results show a pressing problem in today’s society.
To combat this growing issue researchers at Dublin City University (DCU) decided to examine how companies view maternity leave and how this can affect their employee’s experiences.
They surveyed over 300 women, HR directors and line managers in 28 major organisations.
They found that organisations that view maternity leave as a brief interlude in a woman’s career are the most successful in retaining high potential female employees post-maternity leave.
In contrast, where maternity leave was viewed as a major disruption for a company, negative experiences were more common for returning mothers.
“The transition back to work is laden with challenges that can lead to career derailment when the return is not managed effectively,” Dr. Yseult Freeney, Associate Professor in Organisational Psychology at DCU Business School, said.
“Ultimately, positive returns are associated with a renewed focus on careers and a strengthened relationship with the organisation.”
The study recommends that employers take a longer-term view of a woman’s career, implementing manager training to support the transition back to work, permitting phased return and employing flexible practices for all.
Hopefully, this research will serve as a wakeup call to employers.