How to support parents returning to work


  • 41% of workers are parents
  • Women make up nearly half of the workforce in the UK
  • More than 80% will become mothers
  • 69% of fathers consider childcare arrangements before taking a new job or promotion


  • 48% of parents say that working hours regularly get in the way of spending time with their children
  • 1 in 9 returning mothers report feeling forced to leave their job
  • 1 in 5 in mothers said they experienced harassment related to pregnancy

As a HR partner, we know that when supporting parents returning to work, you should look beyond obligation, duty of care and following procedure.

You’ve nurtured and developed a talent which you want to keep hold of – not lose to your competitors. Plus, in the case of first-time parents, they are returning with a whole new set of transferable skills – multi-tasking, leadership, communication, patience, resilience, adaptability.

So, it makes good business sense to ensure their return to work is as smooth and as positive as possible. With that in mind, here’s our common sense guide to going the extra mile and showing your employees how much you value them.

Be open – Way before maternity leave is even taken, begin a two-way conversation based on trust, respect and honesty. This will set the scene when it comes to formal discussions around flexible working, keeping in touch days and phased starts. Be human and approachable and you’ll find that your team will pay you back tenfold in hard work and commitment.

Be flexible – When returning to work, your team member may well put forward their suggestions about a new way of working, which could benefit you as well as them. So, keep an open mind, explore the logistics and consider all options. Just because a certain scenario hasn’t happened before doesn’t mean it can’t happen now.

Be patient – It could take a number or weeks, or even months, before your employee is back up to speed. Show some empathy, encouragement and support. And offer practical help such as training, flexible working or regular 1:1 meetings with HR to assess any additional needs. Think long-term – supporting parents back to work is a lot easier, and less expensive, than recruiting, training and retaining a new employee. And certainly, far less costly than an expensive discrimination claim.

Be supportive – A recent survey revealed that 4 in 5 mothers feel their employer could do a better job of supporting breastfeeding mothers. Offer time, flexibility and a dignified space to use a breast pump when needed. How about other ways you can reduce stress for new mums? If you can’t go as far as benefits package, could you consider a list of recommended services to assist stressed-out parents – such as childcare, yoga classes or sleep coaches? Your aim is to build of culture of compassion, built on your organisation’s beliefs …and deliver on it.

Be informed – As much as we are saying here that, essentially, being human and kind are far more important than knowing the latest legislation – you do need to know about these things too! As an employer, you’re expected to know all about maternity rights, SMP, risk assessments, holiday entitlement, KIT days and back to work plans. And if you don’t have a HR department who can take care of those things for you, employing a flexible HR partner is a popular option for some SMEs.

At some point, you’ll be faced with your team members returning to work after having children. And as law and regulations are ever-changing and confusing, Peeps HR are able to manage this for you. Having a HR partner means you have access to an expert with all the knowledge – without the overheads. You get the right solutions and the best results, and most importantly – so do your team.

Get in touch with us if you have any concerns about supporting new parents returning to work. Call 01453 297557 or email to

Sources: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trade Union Congress and Office for National Statistics.