Improving Work Life Balance Programs to Reduce Turnover After Maternity Leave

Actual Comments on Why Employees Leave:

“The company needs to increase flexibility of schedule during life transitions, such as birth of a child. As maternity leave is only 12 weeks long, extended flexibility upon return to work would have enabled me to continue in a modified work role, which could be later fully resumed to my previous work level. This would improve employee retention over a much greater period of time, as most employees are likely to have shifting family demands throughout an extended period of employment.”

The Solution

As of 2013, 57% of college students are female. Let’s think about that.

How many more women will be movers and shakers at your company over the next decade? As companies vie for the best talent, maternity policies and work life balance programs could be a heavily weighted factor for female employees who are the same age at which they consider starting families.

Culturally here in America, we expect new moms to make a quick return to their jobs. But how many employees have chosen not to return after having their child? I’ve seen this many times.

The United States, in general, is regarded by observers as having among the least accommodating maternity leave policies globally.

Pick a country (other than New Guinea or Swaziland, who are in step withl the U.S.) and look up their maternity leave policy.

Using Spain as an example and referencing this document from Tulane University, new mothers in Spain receive:

• An additional month off their jobs than Americans do to bond with their newborns

• 100% of their pay during those 16 weeks

• two additional weeks of fully paid leave in the event of twins

• “additional unpaid parental leave” as needed, until their child reaches the age of three

Non-U.S. employers are obviously more generous, flexible and accommodating with work life balance programs and maternity leave.

The “additional unpaid parental leave” mandated of employers in Spain might have made a huge difference for the exiting employee attributed to the quote above, who desired “extended flexibility upon return to work.”

In the interest of work life balance, a lot of American employees would happily take reduced hours (and pay) in order to spend more time with their infants and toddlers while still keeping one foot in their jobs. Their jobs, after all, are a big part of their identity, an important source of income and a respite from the intensity of young motherhood.

Offering employees more flexibility can provide them with the work life balance they need at this important time. Solutions include:

• reduced hours
• alternative scheduling
• job sharing
• telecommuting

The flexibility employees are looking for is not a fathomless demand.

By age three, as recognized by Spain, it’s a lot easier for working moms to work the hours they did before giving birth.

Even by age two, the demands on new moms go down as children are potty trained and weaned. The frequency of their illnesses goes down, they’re eating solid food, they start sleeping through the night and they’ve had their intensive battery of doctor visits and inoculations.

While not mandated to do so, these U.S. companies are already offering the maternity leave solutions above. And all of those businesses also offer their employees paid maternity leave.

Is your competition among them?

Of course, at this time, most American companies offer no pay during maternity leave. If your company is not in a position to match this paid benefit, disability insurance policies that cover your employees offer at least a healthy fraction of their wages during their maternity leave. It’s relatively inexpensive, and a huge advantage in recruiting and retention over companies offering nothing.

With our country far behind the rest of the world in maternity leave policy, the market is starting to respond to the U.S. “maternity leave gap.” Women make up 52% of the population but will soon become 57% of the educated workforce (the current gender split of those attending college is 43% male- 57% female). Doing the least mandated by law for female employees is already hitting companies with the double blow of avoidable turnover and weakened recruiting.

When parenthood arrives for your employees, consider offering flexibility and remuneration that stands up to your best competition, and that strengthens, not strains the relationship.

(This blog post is brought to you by HSD Metrics, an exit interview company that helps companies reduce employee turnover by providing automated reference checking, exit interviews, and by measuring employee retention. The comments from exiting employees that are featured in this blog are collected from actual exit interviews conducted using ExitRight®, HSD Metrics’ exit interviewing service. If you are interested in learning more, contact us today. Because we place the privacy of our clients at the top of our priority list; the names of all involved parties are kept completely confidential.)