Dear Employer: Nicki Seignot explores how employers can create an environment that is welcoming for parents returning from leave

Dear Employer

The transition from career to parenthood and then overlaying these demanding and often conflicting identities is dramatic. Without appropriate support, navigating a return to work after extended leave (be that maternity, shared parental leave, or adoption leave) can be a roller coaster of a journey, standing in marked contrast to pre-baby certainty and expectations of how life and career would turn out. Notwithstanding often enhanced policies for pay and time off, few individuals cite company policy when telling the story of their return to work. Typically, the journey is a personal account of emotional highs and lows, dips in confidence and self-belief, concerns with currency of knowledge and skillsets and ‘big’ conversations with HR and line managers at a time when someone is perhaps feeling at their most vulnerable and unsure.

Frequently people express their returns in terms of ‘luck’; ‘I had a lucky return’, or ‘I’m lucky to work on flexible hours’ or even ‘I’m lucky to have a really supportive manager’. Luck doesn’t make for a strategic approach. There are sound business reasons to invest in returning talent

The surprise is that despite having invested so much prior to this point, many employers simply fail to invest in

their returning talent, working on the assumption of ‘self help’ with all the risk that this entails.

Our request of you is to take a proactive approach, putting simple measures in place; conversations which make the difference, including;

Workshops for Managers

Striving to maintain the business agenda and at the sharp end of legally sensitive and sometimes emotional conversations, managers are the implementers of your policies. They are also the deal breakers for returns to meaningful work, for flexibility and future careers. It’s in everyone’s interest that managers demonstrate empathy, are supportive and confident they have the knowledge and tools they need when they need them. Workshops are an opportunity to build consistency and set out good practice.

Parental Mentoring

Internal, peer-to-peer mentoring programmes are a cost effective and sustainable way of supporting returning talent on an ‘open to all’ basis. The expertise is in your workplace. Parental mentoring programmes connect parents-to-be with fellow working parents who’ve made the journey back to work themselves and who understand the unique culture and context of your organisation from within. With appropriate preparation, these off-line relationships can offer timely 1-1 support and a safe conversation space. They are also an opportunity to pay it forward – as someone is helped in turn; they help future generations of talent.

Informal networks

These can be helpful sources of support, either online or alternatively as informal social groups that get together for individuals on leave or who have already returned to work. For someone struggling to feel back, it can be hugely helpful to connect with others to exchange ideas and discover the issues they are grappling with are probably not in isolation.

The opportunity to make a difference to the long-term health of your talent pipeline is in front of you right now, with the individual who has just announced her pregnancy, the new father requesting shared parental leave or the colleague on the point of returning to work. Bridge the gap between policy and experience by extending your investment in talent through this critical time, supporting employees personally and professionally as they make the transition to working parenthood.

For organisations that strive to make a difference, the rewards will be evident in the short term, with more engaged and effective employees, and longer term, with a stronger, more balanced pipeline which delivers talent for the future success of the business.

At the Parent Mentor, we’re passionate about investing in returning talent from within organisations though simple, sustainable solutions. For more information do call Nicki on 07557 399732 or visit

Nicki Seignot is the lead consultant and founder of The Parent Mentor and co- author of Mentoring New Parents at Work a how to guide for getting started


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