Designing an inclusive workplace for parents goes well beyond parental leave. While the length of leave is part of the equation, new parent support and a positive culture of parenthood is more important for retaining parents in the long run.
“Most people aren't deciding whether or not they're going to leave the company as they go out on leave," says Kaleana Quibell, Wellbeing Director at Sequoia Consulting Group. "It's once they have that baby realize how much work it is that they're like, ‘how am I going to balance this?’ I could have 60 weeks of leave and it doesn't matter if I don't know how I'm going to insert back into my role.”
A 2018 study of maternity leave in the United Kingdom and Ireland covered by the Harvard Business Review finds that support during the return from leave is more important than the length of the leave itself.
Yes, it is important to give new caregivers the time they need around birth. But, for employers, the greater challenge is creating a welcoming space to return for a parent of any kind— including fathers, adoptive parents, and established parents.
Becoming a parent is a natural moment of reflection where we think about the job we are in and assess if it fits our needs at this new stage of life.
Employers must recognize the importance of the moment and build the cultures and support structures to support it. Crafting a parent-friendly workplace is a team effort built on empathetic teammates, managers empowered with resources, and leadership setting an example.
Companies that create proactive, comprehensive parent strategies that encompass support before, during, and after leave are more likely to retain their top talent. Plus, companies that create pro-family environments benefit from the positive workplace traits an engaged parent develops—emotional intelligence, growth mindset, and collaboration capacity.
📚 How Companies Can Ensure Maternity Leave Doesn’t Hurt Women’s Careers, Harvard Business Review. David Collings, Yseult Freeney, and Lisa van der Werff.
📚 Becoming A Mom Makes Women Better At Work, Forbes. Mary Beth Ferrante.