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In the previous blog we looked into the different fears and misconceptions related to returning back to work after maternity leave. Due to the different misconceptions mentioned, amongst several others, it is possible that stereotypes about working mothers occur and indirectly affect their career situation and advancement. Therefore, in order to counteract any biases faced by mothers, it is necessary for employers to directly address them.

First of all, there needs to be a change in how the ideal employee is viewed. Many employers often reward long hours and fi­xed schedules. However, attention should be put on the tasks achieved instead. Rather than only concentrating on time physically spent at work, employers should focus on what an employee is able to do in the time that he/she is present, that is his/her outputs and goals achieved. It is important to also remember that if employees are able to spend quality time at home, they tend to be more productive at work.

To help in the transition back to work, the company/organization can start preparing the employee for her return by informing her about changes that have occurred while she was away. In many cases, the mother may not be coming back to the same position she left or there may be new colleagues on the team. Having a plan to reintegrate the employee will give every employee (not only the returning mother) a clear idea of different roles and responsibilities, as well as any changes in procedures.

An employer may consider also providing alternative and flexible work arrangements. Offering such work arrangements can be beneficial to both employee and employer. This is because, since employees feel more appreciated, they feel more satisfied and in return are usually more productive at work. If such work arrangements are accepted, trust by the employer is essential. Working mothers often feel judged when not working the typical hours at the place of work. Co-workers may view the mother as being with her children rather than working when she is not at the place of work. Therefore, trust will not only strengthen the professional relationship, but also motivate her to remain accountable.

Offering flexible hours to new mother can also be a useful alternative in order to be able to manage the different responsibilities of work and home. In many cases, flexible hours not only help the mother who can work around her priorities, but also provide the opportunity to extend the hours of service of the business.

It is important for employers to understand that many of the people working for them, not just mothers, have important commitments and responsibilities outside of the offi­ce. Employees who feel that their employer supports them in their personal lives are more likely to be satisfi­ed, committed, and trusting of the company/organization.

At the end of the day, it is important to make sure that whichever arrangement is chosen is one which works ­for both the employer and the employee and is developed collaboratively between the two.

References:

Davidoff A, Hambley L., Dyrda A., Choi J., Lucas C. & Teebay-Webb R. (2016). Making It Work! How to effectively manage maternity leave career transitions. An Employer’s Guide. Canada: Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling.

Ann Julene Hili is a Career Guidance Practitioner with Willingness. She specializes in working with teens and young adults who are in their educational and career transitions. She can be contacted on annjulene@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.