As September 2021 drew closer and my big pregnant tummy grew larger, I was both excited and nervous about what challenges the next few months, years, and the rest of my life(!) would hold. Not least meeting my new baby and adjusting to life as a new mum, but also how this would impact my role and career development whilst on parental leave.
Had it not been for an open dialogue with my manager (shout out to Melisaan Foster!), I could easily have logged off the day before my maternity leave and excluded myself from my team until some six months later. Had I done that, my return to work would have been abrasive, abrupt, and unduly stressful for all parties involved.
When your employees take an extended period of leave from your team, be that through parental leave or any other reason, there are several ways to ensure they remain engaged and connected. The first recommendation is to talk to your people. It’s as simple as that. Talk with them to find out their preferences on when and how often you reach out to them.
There are of course many guides from employment solicitors online about topics you must contact your employees about whilst they’re on their parental leave (restructures, promotion opportunities, possible redundancies etc.,) to ensure you’re not in risk of breaching the Equality Act 2010, but you should ask your employees about what else they might like to be updated on.
- Do they want to be contacted about changes within the team?
- Have they been working on a project that they’d like progress updates on?
- Would they prefer the updates ad hoc or collated into monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly basis updates?
- Would they still like the opportunity to give feedback on their employee experience?
- Do they want to just hear about the major updates about the wider business?
You shouldn’t only ask questions about topics and scheduling – ask how employees on parental leave want to receive this information too
- Checking their work emails on their own schedule
- Have bulletins sent through to personal emails
- Phone or video call
- Quick WhatsApp messages
In summary, make sure you ask your employees what they want to be contacted about, how often, and through which channels.
We often get asked whether or not clients should include employees on parental leave when inviting people to take part in an engagement survey or on-demand poll. The only people that know the answer is the manager and employee themselves. Make sure you have the conversation before any kind of parental leave begins and ask your employees if they want to be included. It is of course up to the employee to decide if they complete the survey or not, but the invite alone can help a parent feel a connection back to a familiar part of their identity – their work self.
Written by Lilith Nagorski, Bespoke Project Lead at WorkBuzz