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Supporting your new parents DURING parental leave

We all know that becoming a parent is a time of massive change.  Alongside the joy and love that comes with welcoming your wee one into the world, the reality is that parenting, especially for the first time, can cause significant stress and strain.

How organisations support their parents before, during and after parental leave can have a big impact on their longevity and performance within an organisation.  If you want to boost diversity and ensure talented people stay with an organisation, you need to support them through this time of significant change.

The reality is that many women are still leaving the workforce after becoming parents.  This has a significant flow-on impact to the proportion of women in senior leadership roles.  In addition, less than 2% of paid primary carer leave in Aotearoa is taken by dads.  This hinders the benefits that fathers can have on their children’s development and wellbeing in their most formative years, and often restricts the ability of mothers to return to work.  And gender equality promotes economic growth; put simply, when women work, economies grow.

I believe that organisations should support their new parents right across their parenting journey, including when they are on parental leave.  And not just mothers; this support must extend to dads and be inclusive of all family types.

In this second article of a three-part series, I’ve set out the conversations that businesses should be having with their new parents DURING parental leave.

1. Keep in touch with your new parent whilst they’re on leave

Being away for up to 12 months is a long time and new parents can easily get disconnected from their employers and workmates.  Make sure you keep in touch with your team member based on the frequency and contact method you agreed before their leave started.  Keep them up to date on any team or business developments so that they still feel part of the business and aren’t bombarded with changes when they return.  These conversations will also provide new parents a great opportunity to give you the required notice of their return.  

2. Share any wellbeing resources that can be accessed and utilised whilst they’re on leave

These may include continued access to your Employee Assistance Programme if you have one, or other wellbeing resources you have on intranet sites or with external providers.  This could be anything from nutrition resources to subscriptions for meditation platforms.

3. Proactively discuss the flexible working options available when they return

To help ease the concerns that come with transitioning back to work, discuss the flexible options that are available to support them through this.  This could include things like working less than full-time for a while (and potentially being paid full-time), flexible schedules that assist with childcare hours, or considering part-time or job-share arrangements.

4. Utilise ‘keeping in touch’ days if you can make them work for everyone

Keeping in touch days allow new parents to perform work from time to time whilst still being on parental leave (if they want to).  This could include things like attending team days or a change announcement.  There are some restrictions on the hours they can work though so make sure you check out the relevant government websites.

5. Discuss the practical support your team member will require when returning to work

This could include letting them know about breastfeeding, expressing and breast milk storage facilities at your workplace.  There may also be some safety issues to consider, e.g., if they are still recovering from childbirth your new parent may need to have their duties modified in the short term.

These tips are taken from my “Back to Business after Baby” programme – a combination of workshops, 1-1 coaching and sessions for leaders.  It can be tailored to your needs and budget and helps businesses provide support for new parents at every stage of their journey.  If you’d like to receive a copy of my brochure or have a chat to find out more, please get in touch on

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