How HR can support pregnant employees virtually: Top 5 ways

During our recent maternity coaching sessions, our team has come to recognise that many pregnant women in the workplace are currently conscious of not being visible in an office. So we’ve been discussing how HR can support pregnant employees virtually.

The visual reminder that someone is pregnant is more helpful than you might think – managers and colleagues are automatically aware of the upcoming maternity leave and the potential tiredness, discomfort and aches and pains that their team member may be facing.  Video conferencing is great for connecting – but at a ‘heads and shoulders’ level only!

Women going on maternity leave in the next couple of months may not have announced their pregnancy to everyone in (or outside of) the team before lockdown so colleagues who they would see around and about in the office may be completely unaware they are leaving soon.  This can have a lasting negative impact on handover, communication and networking.

Even ONE conversation with HR early on can make a huge difference to an expectant parent’s commitment to your organisation – and could be the make or break to a happy and well supported period of leave.

Top 5 ways HR can help support pregnant employees virtually

We have worked with thousands of parents over the last 10 years, and one thing they all need is to know they have internal support and recognition for the life change they are about to go through.  From a HR perspective, we can’t always control the level of support from managers, but here are a few ways HR can support pregnant employees:

  1. Congratulate and offer support as soon as the pregnancy announcement is made. Make one to one contact immediately and book in a call or a video conference.  Let your employee know how HR can help and the role of their manager.   Acknowledge that this is a huge period of change and that you understand how the current environment will impact this period differently.  Discuss who is there to help and at what stage
  2. Discuss the maternity policy. Don’t just send the link or email the policy details:  some policies can be difficult to navigate and it’s more useful for them to ask specific questions about how each part of the policy relates to their own individual circumstances.  Common questions are around their annual leave and any performance-related entitlements.  Explain the Shared Parental Leave policy and give examples of how this has worked with others to date
  3. Ensure health, safety and wellbeing comes first, even for remote working. Offering a H&S assessment is mandatory to pregnant employees – especially those who are in roles that put them at risk.  Talk through any internal EAP details and other initiatives you may be running to support mental wellbeing for remote working
  4. Support the manager. Not all managers will have managed someone through maternity; if they have it could have been a long time ago or perhaps it didn’t go smoothly.  A manager’s attitude and support (or lack of) can be the make or break of a new parent’s experience and is likely to have a huge effect on the return to work.  Email a checklist, and offer to have a phone call with the manager, especially if you have any concerns
  5. Discuss opportunities for and thoughts around Keeping in Touch Days. This is particularly important currently as the lockdown has presented less opportunities for informally networking.  Have this discussion well before maternity or Shared Parental Leave or ensure the manager has had this conversation. Explain there is an entitlement of 10 Keeping in Touch days (or KIT) and discuss ways in which these days could be beneficial for both those going on leave and the team/organisation.

As always, contact us if you need any more help or have any specific questions around how HR can support pregnant employees or any of the other topics we cover:

This week’s blog is written by co-founder of Parent & Professional, Helen Letchfield.

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