Welcoming Employees Back from Maternity/Paternity Leave

Men and women who are challenged, praised, and valued at work are far more likely to return after adding a child to their family.

Adding a child to your family is equal parts exciting and overwhelming. As an employer, you want to ensure your skilled and trusted employees have the support and structure they need to easily transition back to work after their parental leave. Learn more about how you can improve employee retention and morale among new parents on your team!

Create a Culture That Supports All Families

According to nationwide surveys, employees want a better work-life balance. This means more time with their families and loved ones. When you foster a workplace culture that values your employees’ personal time and needs, it’s easier on new parents.

Unfortunately, U.S. Census data suggests parenthood causes many people to leave their jobs. Roughly 30% of women quit their jobs before giving birth, while another 22% of mothers found new employment after their maternity leave. While many factors can impact a parent’s decision to leave their job, poorly-defined parental leave policies and difficult transitions can negatively impact the employment relationship.

There are many recommendations listed that can benefit your entire workforce, not just new parents. For example, offering your staff flexible work schedules and the option of telecommuting can increase productivity and morale. You might also find these same strategies will benefit employees who have to take medical leave to care for an ill or disabled loved one.

Encourage Your Employees to Build a Transition Plan

Everyone benefits when there are well-defined processes and procedures for parents as they leave for maternity and paternity leave — and eventually return back to your office.

Before they depart, ask your employees to:

  • Create a document that outlines the status of their projects and next steps
  • Identify team members who will handle their workload while they’re away
  • Collaborate with these team members (and management) about how work will be distributed and executed
  • Estimate when they plan on returning to work
  • Encourage them to schedule a meeting with their manager before they return to work to update the team on their transition schedule
  • Help them research child care options before their child is born

Planning in advance can minimize disruption and build goodwill among team members.

Offer Creative Benefits That Foster a Healthy Home-Work Balance

While healthcare and paid leave are important to every expecting and new parent, you shouldn’t limit yourself to these essential benefits. There are other ways to improve your employees’ transition back to work after parental leave that are easy to implement and relatively inexpensive.

For example, you might offer:

  • Flexible work schedules
  • Telecommuting options
  • Mentoring and support groups for new working fathers and mothers

Larger companies might also offer childcare subsidies, in-house care options, or extended leave of absence programs.

Don’t Assume a New Parent Is Distracted by Their Personal Life

Imagine you’ve just returned from parental leave. You loved your time with your newborn and family, but you’re ready to get back to work. Upon your return, however, you discover many of your job duties have been transferred to your co-workers. You’re no longer invited to important end-of-day meetings. Your projects seem more simplistic and less satisfying. You wonder: Is my management cutting me some slack while I transition back to work or have I been put on the “mommy track”?

Rather than make assumptions about a parent’s capacity to multi-task or their commitment to work, open a candid dialogue with them. This might involve setting goals and creating a staged schedule that allows them to adjust to their new reality. While some parents will struggle with the transition, others relish the chance to get back to business. Be accommodating to both groups.

Educate Yourself and Your Team About the Laws Surrounding Parental Leave and Child Care

Numerous state and federal laws govern parental leave and working parents. Make sure you understand the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and laws that accommodate and protect breastfeeding mothers.

Share this information with your employees, and educate them about California’s Paid Family Leave program and their legal rights. Confirm your commitment to them and their successful transition after parental leave.

Encourage Your Team to Take Care of Their Own Health and Wellness

It’s hard caring for another person while meeting your work obligations. Many new parents neglect their own health and wellness. Instead of tending to their self-care, they fall into unhealthy eating habits, reduce their exercise, and sometimes struggle with serious health conditions (like postpartum depression) in silence.

As an employer, you have a vested interest in your employees’ health. Remind your employees that Canopy Health’s alliance of hospitals, physician groups, and care centers offers comprehensive care for their entire families. If you’re concerned about a new parent’s health, encourage them to discuss their issues with their primary care physician. If they need help finding a Canopy Health provider, point them toward our physician directory.

You can also educate new parents about the helpful postpartum programs offered within the Canopy Health alliance. Many of our hospitals offer postpartum support groups and classes — including UCSF HealthJohn Muir HealthMarin General Hospital,  Sequoia Hospital, and the Regional Medical Center of San Jose.


Laughlin, L. (2011, October). Maternity leave and employment patterns of first-time mothers: 1961-2008. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p70-128.pdf