How employers can go further to support employees after childbirth

A lady and her baby
75% of new parents experience stress and overwhelm when they return to work after childbirth -

Traditionally, baby bonding leave consists of time and money. The amount of time and money depends on the company policy of course and employers have been praised when they increase these.

Time to bond with the baby and financial support during this time are incredibly useful and beneficial to any employee embarking on parenthood. 

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However, it is proven that time and money do not equate to emotional and physical recovery. With 75% of new parents experiencing stress and overwhelm when they return to work – and 43,000 UK mums leaving the workforce last year (a 3% increase on the year before) – we have to really look at whether our existing policies are actually retaining, and attracting, talent.

I believe that if employers were to focus more on emotional and physical recovery during this time they would develop a more loyal, productive and happier workforce.

Less than 10% of employees reach out for support through reactive employee assistance programmes; baby bonding leave may seem like a time to leave your employees alone but ignoring this postpartum period will have massive effects on your workforce long-term.

In fact, the NCBI claims that anyone who experienced pregnancy complications will still be suffering when they return to work unless appropriate support is given. 

Here are a few ways that employers can start to think about postpartum support

  1. Our brains change when we become parents so employers need to adjust to accommodate these changes. This includes increased education and empathy around what happens during the postpartum period. In my Postpartum Plan corporate workshops I provide the tools and policies all companies can instil to fully support their working parent community. 

  2. 100% of full-term pregnancies will experience some form of stomach overstretch and 30% will experience diastasis recti, the splitting on the abdominal wall. Left untreated, diastasis recti can cause severe back pain that will impact desk working and productivity levels. Education around diastasis recti and postpartum recovery enables all employees to seek the care they need before they return to work. 
  3. These issues do not solely affect the birthing parent. 46% of new dads say that they experienced a new mental health issue within two years of having their first child with 56% of dads claiming that lack of postpartum support negatively impacted their health (research by Koru Kids). Postpartum support for all parents – regardless of gender or situation – is crucial to promote positive mental health policies within an organisation. 

  4. Third-party support from trusted postpartum organisations can help employee and employer to talk about sensitive issues such as postnatal depression, prolapse and pelvic floor issues without any embarrassment. Some HR teams do not have the experience or training to speak about these issues – and many employees do not want to share them with the company directly – so finding the right services is crucial. 

If companies do not start to think about this now, they will be forced to in the next few years. Research by Vodafone discovered that one in five 18-34-year-olds have left their company due to poor parental leave policies. 

It is time to re-think how we approach baby bonding leave. This is not a time to ignore our employees but to really lean in and adapt to the emotional and physical changes that may be occurring. With 60% of mothers and 30% of fathers changing their career after childbirth, does your business really have any choice?  

Meg Murray Jones is founder of Postpartum Plan