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Between the 4th - 10th May 2020, employees and employers alike will acknowledge Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week. The week-long campaign is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health while pregnant or after childbirth, as well as signposting people to relevant support services.
With more parents choosing to stay in full-time employment, while also taking on the challenge of parenthood, the issue of what role employers can play in supporting maternal mental health in the workplace is becoming more important.
After giving birth to a child, many mothers experience a period of ill-mental health known as ‘postnatal depression’. Symptoms include increased anxiety, low moods and withdrawing from contact with others.
It is also widely reported that postnatal depression can affect fathers returning to work from paternity leave. In fact, charity Family Lives report that 1 in 14 men experience postnatal depression.
Giving birth to a child is a life-changing event and can have lasting effects for parents - emotionally and physically. When the time comes for them to return to work, the way in which this period is managed by any employer can be the difference in retaining or losing a key team member.
Here, we have listed several tips to consider when supporting maternal mental health in the workplace...
Stay in touch - When a member of your team leaves for maternity leave, it’s important that you schedule various ‘check-in’s’ before they leave. Reassure them that these appointments are informal and are in place to see how they are coping while being away from work. You can use these meetings to update them on any business updates or changes to the workplace. This will help them still feel like a valued member of your team and ease any worries they may have before returning to work.
Flexible working - It‘s common for returning parents to ask for their work patterns to be adjusted to fit their needs, such as childcare requirements, medical appointments etc. By allowing them some flexibility with their working hours, you will see happier and more dedicated employees.
Training - Early intervention is key in supporting employees living with maternal mental health problems. Educating and training your line managers to help them spot the signs of team members struggling with their emotional health will be vital in supporting your people, and saving the business HR and recruitment costs.
Workplace culture - The most effective way to support the maternal mental health at work is to cultivate a culture that view’s maternity and paternity leave as a brief interlude in an employee’s career, not a hindrance. Research conducted by Dublin City University (DCU) Business School found that organisations that view maternity leave a major disruption, are far less likely to retain high-performing employees.
Returning back to work for new parents can be a highly stressful and emotionally-draining time and employers need to be aware of the mental health risks associated. However, if careful consideration is applied to workplace wellbeing strategies, employers will see their employees return in a sound and safe manner.
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