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Returning From Parental Leave: To Go Back or Not To Go Back?

There is no doubt that leaving a new baby to return to work is incredibly challenging for most moms.  Anxiety over separation, however, is not the only reason that 1/3 of American mothers do not return to the workforce after parental leave. 


Why don’t they return?

Every new mother’s situation is different, but here are some common reasons many do not return to work after parental leave:

  • Mothers find that their salaries do not support the cost of childcare.
  • Rigid work schedules do not allow parents the flexibility needed to cope with a family schedule. 
  • Many women feel insecure about pumping breastmilk in the workplace, and this is further exacerbated by insufficient areas where they can do it comfortably. 
  • Returning to work after a long absence can be intimidating. This is intensified by a lack of transition and an employer’s expectation that the new mom can jump right back into work.


What can employers do?

It’s all about culture! It is up to the employer to create a culture that supports new mothers and families. New mothers (and fathers) who feel supported in their new familial role are more likely to feel balancing career and family is possible. The following are some policies employers should consider adopting:

  • Offer “phased returns” allowing the valued employee time to adjust to her return to work.
  • Offer flexible work schedules to accommodate doctor’s visits, childcare, and any other event that a rigid 9-5 would make impossible.
  • Give new mothers an equal opportunity. Don’t withhold offers of advancement because you think she is already too busy. Give her the option. Even if she declines, she will see that you are not limiting her growth simply because she is a mother.
  • Some employers offer childcare to ease the burden of parenthood, but if this isn’t feasible, allowing remote work from home days is a great alternative.

All of these policies are wonderful, but if an employer does not truly see the value in retaining its employees following parental leave, they are likely to have little effect. Employers must OWN IT!


What is Elevate K-12’s secret to having a 100% return rate?

There’s no secret. It comes down to a company that values the contribution of all of its high-performing employees, no matter their family makeup. Not only does Elevate K-12 have a paid parental leave policy, it also has a “re-onboarding” process which gives new parents the chance to ease back into the workplace as well as catch up on what has happened while they were out. It’s no surprise that the supportive culture offered at Elevate K-12 brings new mothers (and fathers) back. In the next few posts Elevate K-12’s new moms will share their experiences with parental leave and their experience “re-onboarding”.