Postnatal Work Blues? Governments And Corporations Can Play A Crucial Role In Mitigating This

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For decades, maternity coaching in the private sector has been at a prominent space. The industry is crucial to help mothers’ transition to their new role, both at home and at work. Giving birth brings with it a myriad of emotions and can be one of the biggest transitions for a mother in a world that’s changing by the day. It marks a new identity for both the parents and oftentimes, new parents seek services from maids, nannies, babysitters, if they do not have family member available to help out. The arrival of a new child demands ample support and planning to help the new parents feel comfortable when returning to the workplace.

This transition birthed the idea of maternity coaching. An increasing number of MNCs and global firms started relying on maternity programs to support working mothers and retain great talent. These programs addressed issues surrounding individual performance support, balancing family and work, providing day care facilities, feeding rooms, and overall support to aid the transition.

However, over time, this narrative has started to fade. With increasing competition and stricter budgets, organizational support is declining for working mothers who return to work after maternity leave. In a recent survey, it was revealed that the lack of organizational support was taking a toll on their physical and mental well-being, with nearly 37 percent of the respondents contemplated resigning from the organization.

The numbers aren’t all that rosy, either. Just under a fifth felt happy and confident returning to work, and a large number saw many of them unsupported and isolated. In today’s corporate space, maternity leave is seen more as a problem than a benefit provided to expectant mothers.

Motherhood can be a tricky phase, especially when wading through a career, while still managing to invest the time and energy to juggle duties at home and at the workplace. One might think there’s ample support built in to the system, however data states otherwise. Nearly 77 percent of mothers faced discriminatory issues while at work, during their pregnancy, while at maternity leave or after kick-starting work post their break. What’s alarming is recruiting agencies also carry some amount of bias when hiring pregnant women.

Oftentimes, maternity leave is seen as a downside to hiring – but what many fail to see is the opportunity to tap into talent that can churn massive growth and huge long-term benefits to the company.

With increasing competition in the market, another downside for to-be-mothers is the growing concern of an active job profile when returning to work. Reports highlight that in Australia, over 32 percent of mothers experience discrimination, and some reported that their managers had informed them that their jobs were no longer available.

The furloughed staff remarked that firms that undergo restructuring bank on those on maternity leave to be removed from the organization first. The discrimination did not stall with redundant jobs or restructuring of companies, mothers were dismissed, or their contracts were not renewed due to their maternity break. Many were subjected to discrimination related to their job role, income and work flexibility. It can take a variety of forms – sometimes by not enabling the staff to tap into the right growth opportunities or options for promotion.

Despite societal pressures that imply a newborn is best looked after by the mother, paternal leave is also crucial to maintaining a solid work-life balance for the couple. Although the idea of paternal or parental shared leave was effective for years, many companies shy away from normalizing it.

For many employees, the leave policies on shared or paternal leave, if there exists one, is simply too complex or bureaucratic. Lack of awareness or communication by the employer also discourages employees from availing these benefits.

With shifting growth strategies and business environments, corporations should recognize the importance of taking care of expectant parents. This commitment can go a long way in increasing the employee’s performance, attitude and commitment to work. Governments can play a key role in driving companies to provide ample support to parents, through means of legislations or incentives.

One of the best examples for a successful uptake in parental leave is Sweden, where parents are entitled to sixteen months of paid leave with just one catch – the leave must be shared by the parents. To erase the social stigma of shared leave, bigger industries need to pave the way from smaller companies to follow suit. Silicon Valley’s top tech players, Facebook and Google, have enabled just that. To build an employee culture that fosters empathy and employee support, liberal leave policies were provided by the firms. The perks were plenty – consulting firm Accenture saw its employee attrition rate almost halve and they thrived in their roles after returning to work.

Providing the right flexibility to employees and embracing changes, while still encouraging employees to grow, can greatly improve talent retention, boost staff morale and enhance leadership and innovation.

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