Poor support offered to professional women returning from maternity leave

Little support for professional women returning from maternity leaveA new survey of professional, mainly management-level women has revealed a lack of support for maternity returners by employers. According to the survey by working parents website MMB, more than four fifths of pregnant women begin their maternity leave unhappy and lacking in confidence about work – and over a third feel so isolated when they return that they want to hand their notice in. The survey of more than 1,000 mothers, 72 percent of whom were in jobs at management level or above found that only 18 percent of maternity returners felt happy and confident about work – having seen the way previous maternity returners had been dealt with by their employer. Over a third (37 percent) felt so unsupported and isolated on their return that they wanted to leave and just 17 percent felt they received good communication and support through the maternity process.

The vast majority (90 percent) said no returner support was offered through returner programmes or one to one coaching and 60 percent were worried about their requests for flexible working being rejected.

In response its findings, MMB has launched a campaign, #LeaveLoudly and #ReturnLouder. Backed by the Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, it will empower women to call for better treatment and offer a maternity returners’ programme for businesses.

 “Our survey shows it’s time for action, not just talk, said Abbie Coleman, founder of MMB.  “#LeaveLoudly is about senior managers doing just that, to help normalise flexible working and change working culture to focus on production, not presenteeism.

“Along the same principle is #ReturnLouder. We want mums returning from maternity leave, or time out raising children, to let everyone know that there is this huge talent pool of highly skilled parents who often get overlooked.  We need to change the way we look and engage all returners.”

The Labour MP for Leeds West, Rachel Reeves, herself a working mother, is supporting the campaign, alongside business leaders and academics.

She said: “The challenges facing parents returning to work after the birth of a child are immense.  Many have to juggle caring responsibilities and running a home with fitting back into the workplace.

“It is important that employers are sympathetic to those challenges and do far more to help working parents with flexible hours, support with childcare where possible and other measures.  Working parents are a huge asset to business and they should be nurtured and supported so they can play their part in growing the economy.”