It’s the one time in your life your personal and professional lives collide: when to tell your boss you’re pregnant. For working women, the choice to communicate the most exciting of news is not a matter of if but when. But even for top talent, all too often, this exciting news is met with disappointment because managers are often ill-equipped and unsupported to manage a parental leave absence and flexible work arrangements. Recent research by the Australian Human Commission shockingly revealed that almost one in two Australian women experience discrimination in the workplace either during pregnancy, while on parental leave or upon returning to work.
In addition, 32 per cent of all mothers who were discriminated against went to look for another job or resigned. And almost one in five mothers (18 per cent) indicated they were made redundant, their jobs were restructured, they were dismissed or their contract was not renewed.
Pregnancy related discrimination significantly affects a woman’s dignity and economic security, and comes at a significant cost to business.
Staff turnover costs Australian businesses some $20 billion every year
The answer for many workplaces has been to increase their paid parental leave – and we have written before about the numerous benefits of this. But the while the objective of paid parental leave is to support women to establish a long term attachment to the workplace, the investment in talent is redundant if managers aren’t equipped to have the right conversations, and discriminatory attitudes, conscious and unconscious biases are left to inform behaviours.
For a majority of the women we coach, career is a part of their identity. The role of the people leader is to ask questions that will inform them of the working mum-to-be’s career aspirations, listen to their professional vision, recognise their talent and work together to support them to make that a reality. The better the manager, the greater the impact on women’s economic security and the more likely we are to see more women in leadership.
Here are our top 10 tips to retain your pregnant talent.
When your team member tells you they are pregnant, ask them to think about their professional vision. If they are not sure how to create a professional vision, check out Step 2 of our digital platform.
- She or he who has had kids does NOT know best. So don’t assume that your team member will want the same journey as the one you, your wife or sister made.
- A pregnancy announcement is not the same as a resignation, so don’t sideline your team member to the equivalent of gardening leave by assuming she won’t want to travel, work on the “good work”, or apply for a promotion.
- No, you can’t make your team member on parental leave redundant because you like their replacement better. It’s unlawful.
- Demonstrate that you trust your team member by supporting them to use flexibility to optimise their productivity as their pregnancy progresses. (It will do wonders for the engagement of your whole team!)
- Create a keeping in touch plan that is aligned to their values and with their professional vision. Those 10 days of paid leave can be a great asset for both the business and the team member
- Team members on parental leave are still employees, so call them to check in and show them you care
- Be open minded about their return to work, treat it as a transition, and educate yourself on the benefits of workplace flexibility.
- The average age of a first time mother is 28.9; she will not lose her 10 + years of work experience in the period she is on leave. In fact she’s more likely to gain a whole set of skills the workplace could never teach her. Your job is to value them.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Not just in the first week, but over the first year.