Going out on parental leave can feel like a huge undertaking—but it doesn't have to be. Forward-thinking policies, benefits, and management training can foster effective communication and make the return-to-work transition smoother. But what is the best way to support employees before, during, and after parental leave? We put together this maternity leave checklist to get you started. 

Why is offering support for new parents necessary?

Bringing home a child is one of life's most pivotal moments, and returning to work afterward can often be a crossroads in an employee's career. If employers fail to provide enough benefits and support during this time, they could lose their best talent to a company that does.

Turnover and maternity support

23% of employees have thought about leaving a job due to childcare issues, with women three times more likely than men to consider doing so. According to research from McKinsey, the impact on women of color is even greater: while 35% of white women said they were planning to leave their job, the rate jumped to 46% for women of color. 

And for those who remain, the unequal distribution of household and childcare duties has clearly taken a toll: 42 percent of women reported high rates of burnout compared to 35 percent of men. As people's childbearing and child-rearing years progressively overlap with their prime working years, there are  implications for employers. 

With 7.3 million open jobs in an economy with just 6.54 million unemployed workers, employers seeking employees with specific experience and skills are more apt to have an even harder time replacing those who quit because of inadequate parental leave or return-to-work policies. And the cost of replacing these employees is high: studies estimate that the cost can be up to three to four times the position's salary.

The maternity leave checklist

Maternity leave plans or parental leave plans are critical for employees and managers alike. They can help ensure that the employee is able to maximize their parental leave, and that the company has adequate coverage while they are gone.

Use this maternity leave checklist as a guide to help employees prepare for leave: 

1. Set up a meeting with the expecting parent

Congratulations are in order when an employee shares the news they're expecting. Then, it's an excellent opportunity to set up a meeting between HR and the expecting employee to communicate the company's policies, including available benefits and paid parental leave, as well as address any concerns or questions the employee might have about how much time they are able to request off from work.

Companies should also provide an in-depth look at available benefits, make employees aware of FMLA policies, and outline helpful changes to their role following their return-to work-date such as a flexible schedule or phased return.

2. Create a maternity leave plan

Once the first meeting has taken place, give the employee an opportunity think through their plans for maternity leave. You can then discuss and create a draft maternity leave plan detailing the following information in writing:

  • The expected date for maternity leave to begin
  • How much time they expect to take off work
  • Stipulations on pay received during their maternity leave
  • Approximate dates for keep-in-touch days/check-ins
  • Their planned return to work date
  • If they plan to work remotely or part-time upon returning to work

3. Document daily tasks and responsibilities 

Soon after announcing their maternity leave date, ask the expectant employee to record their day-to-day responsibilities and current or future roles in any long-term projects.

This prepared documentation should include detailed descriptions of processes, tasks, deliverables, and relevant internal and external contacts. This documentation process will assist in setting up an efficient training process for their temporary replacement or other coworkers stepping in.

4. Manage clients

Once approximate dates for maternity leave are agreed, the employee should contact any clients or internal stakeholders to inform them of their departure. They should discuss any projects that need finalizing before these dates and introduce a new contact that will take over any accounts and be responsible for future projects.

5. Reassign tasks and recruit a temporary replacement

Before the employee takes parental leave, HR and management must decide whether the company will outsource their work to a temporary contractor or their coworkers. To make this decision, analyze the core business and noncritical activities that the expecting employee is responsible for, as well as any direct reports that will require a new manager.

Generally, it's wise to keep core responsibilities internal to reduce risks to the company, while less-critical activities can be more easily outsourced. Temporary workers should begin a few weeks before the departing employee leaves to ensure a smooth transition and proper training. 

6. Communicate with the team regularly 

Once the maternity leave plan is set with the expectant employee, it's time to let the team know. Engage in regular team-wide discussions about process adjustments, temporary responsibilities, temporary contractor introductions, and other important information. An estimated timeline of their coworker's due date and updates along the way is always appreciated. 

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How to support employees returning to work after parental leave

Going out on leave ideally results in an employees' return. But every person that brings home a new baby, whether as a birthing parent, a partner, or even as an adoptive parent, will face unique challenges. Offering support for their physical, mental, and financial health can help them navigate a joyful and challenging time and ensure a smooth transition back to work.

Maternity support 

Providing support throughout pregnancy can improve outcomes for birthing parents and their babies alike. Maternity support can include a variety of services. Classes, coaching, and even access to virtual specialists like doulas and midwives can get birthing people the support and advice they need. Early interventions during maternity can reduce healthcare costs over time, especially if chronic conditions and issues can be managed.

Postpartum and return-to-work support

Over half of American women return to work in the first three months after their birth date, in a child's infancy. However, few have access to resources or support during this pivotal time. According to research by Maven, 43% of employees say that return-to-work coaching would have helped them feel more prepared after giving birth. Employers can help close gaps in postpartum care by offering the following return-to-work benefits: ‍

  • Lactation support: Lactation consultants are specially trained and educated in the clinical practice of breastfeeding and play an essential role in driving positive outcomes for families who choose to breastfeed. Since half of breastfeeding parents report feeding issues, lactation consultants can step up to educate and support new mothers on their breastfeeding journeys. 
  • Breast milk shipping: Breast milk shipping facilitates transport for new parents who cannot breastfeed because they are away from their baby, like if an employee has to travel for work.
  • Career coaching: Navigating the workplace as a new parent can be challenging. Career coaches can help parents understand their roles, responsibilities, and career goals before and after giving birth.

Mental health support 

Throughout the journey to and through parenthood, your employees will undoubtedly face challenges. Studies show that mental health issues are one of the most common challenges of pregnancy and childbirth—about one in five birthing people are affected by mental health issues during pregnancy or within the first year post-pregnancy. And 10 to 20% of new parents experience postpartum depression, which can interfere with daily life. Postpartum depression can affect anyone, including non-birthing parents—eight to 10 percent of non-birthing parents have postpartum depression. 

To provide comprehensive care for new parents, employers can offer on-demand access to virtual mental health resources to support them in the postpartum months. To help an employee experiencing anxiety or depression, connect them with virtual mental health specialists, help them advocate for self-care, and show them compassion as they return to work and build a new routine. Mental health support that is specialized and easily accessible for their journey as a new parent can provide a sense of stability during their transition. 

Ensuring access and ease of use

Understanding healthcare plans and benefits in general is no small feat. According to a survey by HR Dive, approximately one-third of employees don't understand or know nothing about their healthcare coverage. The research also finds that employers aren't stepping in to assist employees in understanding their health benefits.

For new parents who are crunched for time and energy with a newborn at home, consider taking steps to help them understand the resources they have available to them and making them easy to use. This can eliminate the need for them to do their own research about their benefits, which can be stressful, confusing, and time consuming.

Dedicated advisors (like Maven Care Advocates) can help parents find and discover and access all the resources they need to thrive from pregnancy to postpartum, while offering support, advice, and community. Their roles also include answering questions, making referrals to providers, and conducting proactive check-ins and interventions for members as needed.

Partner with Maven to support parents through all stages of their family journey

Benefits like breast milk shipping, career coaching, and access to specialty care providers like lactation consultants, doulas, Care Advocates, and more contribute to a company of healthier and happier working parents. Their inclusion in care plans for new and expecting parents can encourage better outcomes for all and ensure healthy foundations for growing families. 

Maven is the world’s largest virtual clinic for women and families on a mission to make healthcare work for all of us. From preconception and family building to pregnancy, postpartum, return to work, parenting, menopause and beyond, Maven’s intuitive platform removes barriers to accessing holistic support, while improving health outcomes and return-to-work rates and reducing costs for employers. Contact us today to discover how Maven can help women and families in your company.

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