Going out on parental leave is often a huge undertaking—but it doesn’t have to be. Forward-thinking policies, benefits, and management training can improve their health, foster effective communication, and make the return-to-work transition smoother, saving your business time and money on healthcare costs and talent retention. But how should you support employees before, during, and after parental leave? We put together this checklist to get you started. 

Why is offering support for parental leave 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 the maternal wall

As an example of what’s at stake, 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 many implications for employers. 

With 7.3 million open jobs in an economy with just 6.54 million unemployed workers, employers seeking workers with specific experience and skills are more apt to have an even harder time replacing those who quit. Employee turnover, in general, is costly. Turnover among a company’s top contributors is even more so. 

The parental leave HR checklist

It’s essential to develop a plan to ensure the company can offer employees as much parental leave as possible while confirming compliance with all relevant federal and state laws. 

Use this 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 available benefits and parental leave policy, as well as address any concerns or questions the employee might have about their upcoming time off. This initial meeting is also an excellent time to discuss specific benefits or FMLA policies.  

2. Document daily tasks and responsibilities 

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

3. Reassign tasks 

Before the employee takes parental leave, HR and management must decide whether the company will outsource their work to a temporary contractor or another capable coworker. To make this decision, analyze the core business and noncritical activities that the expecting employee is responsible for. 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. 

4. Communicate with the team regularly 

Once the parental leave terms are 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 worker introductions, and other relevant topics. An estimated timeline of their coworker’s absence and updates along the way is always appreciated, especially since babies don’t always arrive on their due dates. 

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How to support employees returning to work

Going out on leave ideally results in an employees’ return. But every employee that brings home a new child, 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 profoundly difficult time and ensure a smooth transition back to work.

Maternity support 

Providing support throughout maternity can help a healthy, happy delivery. Maternity support can include a variety of services, both in-person and virtual. Classes, coaching, and even access to specialists like Doulas and Midwives can get birthing people the support they need. Early interventions during maternity can actually 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 childbirth, 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 equipped 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 parents on their breastfeeding journeys. 
  • Breastmilk shipping: Breastmilk shipping facilitates transport for new parents who cannot breastfeed because they are away from their baby. This service is perfect for employees who travel for work.  
  • Career coaching: Navigating the workplace amidst new changes can be challenging. Career coaches can help new parents maneuver 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 that may necessitate mental health support. Studies show that difficulties with mental health 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. 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 ten percent of non-birthing parents experience postpartum depression. 

To provide comprehensive care for new parents, employers can offer crucial mental health resources to support them in the challenging postpartum months. To help an employee experiencing anxiety or depression, help them find or build a support network, encourage them to seek professional help from a licensed provider, 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-building journey

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

Maven offers families 24/7 access to a robust network of specialty providers through an easy-to-use telehealth platform, covering everything from prenatal care and fertility to maternity and postpartum care. Contact us today to discover how Maven can help families in your company.

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