What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave is time-off that an employer provides an employee upon giving birth to a child. Maternity leave can start before or after birth, enabling the mother to take time off for prenatal and post-natal care. Mothers need time to recuperate, adjust to the monumental life change, and bond with their new child. 

Why should HR leaders care about maternity leave?

A supportive maternity leave policy can contribute to retention, engagement, productivity, and loyalty, reflecting company compassion and consideration for employee wellbeing. If companies offered a more accommodating maternity leave, mothers could feel more confident and motivated to return to work.  

What can HR leaders do to implement a supportive maternity leave?

HR leaders can incorporate these measures to develop a maternity leave that is beneficial to employees and employers:

  • Create a fair policy that avoids legal pitfalls. Organizations can draft a policy that demonstrates consideration, protects the employer from legal complications, and aligns with the local governing laws. The policy should address questions such as the length of leave, pay, eligibility, and gradual, hybrid, or remote return to work options. 
  • Keep moms in the loop. Managers can help new mothers stay connected to work by frequently updating them on team accomplishments and workplace changes. An online document for mothers to access while on leave enables them to maintain involvement while adjusting to life with a new child. 
  • Nurture a supportive culture. HR leaders can develop an inclusive work environment that supports employees throughout the return-to-work process. For example, a private pumping room or onsite childcare can ease mothers’ uncertainties about balancing work with a new baby. 
  • Know the laws. HR leaders must learn their state or government maternity leave laws and effectively adapt them to the organization. FMLA mandates 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, yet about half of young working mothers are ineligible to receive this time off. The UK takes a different approach, offering up to 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave and paying mothers most of their weekly earnings for up to 39 weeks
  • Weigh the cost. Organizations should consider the expense of a high turnover rate when analyzing the costs and benefits of generous maternity leave. HR leaders and managers can maintain productivity by preparing in advance and training employees to take over for coworkers on maternity leave. 

How can a supportive maternity leave improve company culture? 

Raising a new child while working can be challenging and stressful. By providing generous maternity leave and personalized return-to-work perks, organizations can promote employee wellbeing. Encouraging staff to take time for self and family-care ultimately enables employees to maintain loyalty and motivation while taking part in an empathetic, inclusive, and vibrant work culture.