Flexibility for new mums can make the difference
Different organisations have different maternity leave schedules. By law, it amounts to 45 days of paid leave, but an expectant mother can take up to 100 days without pay depending on her medical condition and other factors. Some firms are flexible and give additional days off without any medical documentation, whilst others don’t. Thus, just having a maternity break section in the employee handbook is not enough. The company management should communicate that it is okay to take time off and our jobs will be secure even if we are away for a certain number of days. This way, the expectant mothers can plan their leaves, document hand-overs more efficiently and monitor updates during their absence more effectively. It’s one less thing for new mums to worry about.
I had a baby less than two weeks ago, and as a new mother, I believe one appealing trait for organisation loyalty would be flexibility. This pertains to time off to orient myself with motherhood, and flexible working hours once I resume work, for a short period of time. Becoming a mother is a full-time job in itself, and new mothers need all the support they can get from family, friends and their workplace. Firms that support and coach their employees in this phase of life, demonstrate commitment and trust. Consequently, it would lead to employee retention, especially of female staff.
From Ms Wajiha Shamim
Segment head at a bank in Abu Dhabi
Employers’ support is key to smooth reintegration
Motherhood is a wonderful feeling, however, it brings its own share of challenges and a load of parental stress. The issue takes a different tangent if the mum-to-be is a working mother. She has to constantly juggle to find that ‘perfect’ work-life balance. Considering the fact that employees spend a huge portion of their day in their place of employment, the organisation plays a crucial role in reassurance and confidence building for new mothers, by providing maternity leave. The added responsibility of a new addition to the family, in addition to professional duties, can stretch anyone’s mental and physical reserves.
The bond that parents and children build during this early stage helps build families’ overall wellness and the health and cognitive development of their children. Both pre-natal and post-natal terms are very trying times for parents, and it is time that employers give back to employees by providing certain benefits, such as parental leave policies with paid leave for both parents, confidence and motivation sessions, and coaching classes on how to handle stress.
Such efforts would go a long way in improving new parents’ well-being. Employees would perform better, as their confidence in their employer is rekindled. Maternity leave would also help mothers transition back into the workplace, as they learn to balance the demands that are competing for their time – both related to family and work. The transition isn’t easy, but the key seems to be having enough time to settle into a new life as both a parent and a professional. This is where senior management’s policies are critical for working mums, as they reintegrate within the office ecosystem.
Many organisations have begun this process and senior management has brought in changes, however, there is a long way to go. The employer - employee relationship is not limited to professional dealings, it goes beyond that, hence the role management plays in nurturing maternity leave will benefit the organisation in the long run.
From Ms Shalini Menezes
Finance executive based in Dubai
Are affordable and convenient options for parents available?
The convenience of having private nursing areas in one’s workplace would be a blessing to new mothers. Some organisations give new mums the privilege of leaving work an hour early, but I don’t think that’s good enough. What would make a real difference for new mothers is if they were able to get half a day off every day, or could come in for three days a week, at least in the beginning of their transition period. I personally found it hard to return to work after six months of leave – I had 18 weeks of maternity leave, and used up all my annual leave days to fill in the rest.
Another added stress for new parents during the transition back to work, is finding someone to take care of your child. Initially, I thought of leaving my child at a nursery during my work hours. Now, the quality of nurseries are much better than they used to be. But for many parents, it is neither affordable nor convenient. For instance, when I was looking, I found that nurseries charged an average Dh5,000 a month, and the better ones were located quite far away from my home and workplace. So, I hired a nanny instead. My manager was nice enough to let me go home early on several occasions to check on my child, but then again, not every workplace would allow people to do so. Also, people may find it hard to trust strangers with their child, and this can add further stress for new parents.
From Ms Clarinda Campos
Banker based in Dubai
Kicker: Support system
Mothers will usually quit work to care for their children, no matter the benefits offered
I was pleasantly surprised to read that companies are coming out with innovative ideas to make life during pregnancy, and motherhood, an even more joyful experience. Although steps like better parking facilities for pregnant women seem small, like every drop in the ocean counts, this too, would go a long way in reaping long-term employer-employee relationship rewards. It would lead to retention of staff, and loyalty from employees.
From a psychological point of view, new mothers go through a lot of guilt when they are at work – as they tend to think they are depriving their little ones of bonding time. Seeing that your company is going out of its way to make life a little easy for you leads to better employee morale. So, motivation towards achieving organisation goals would follow naturally. In the UAE, our support system is weak, especially since we live far away from our extended families. With a high dependency on housemaids and babysitters, allowing mums to get due time off in the formative years of their child’s life would help. They would also have the choice to continue with their corporate life and would appreciate the ease of transitioning back to work.
With regards to organisations having more generous parental leave policies, I don’t think a lack of such policies directly links to women staff members leaving organisations. A mother who decides she wants to play the role of a full-time homemaker would still go ahead and quit. The reasons why individuals stay or leave could vary – some may be more career-oriented or would need to help bring in finances to run the household. Reasons vary depending on one’s needs, so perhaps offering some perks to new mums might help them delay quitting work, but decisions are usually made for personal reasons and don’t change because of benefits given. Of course, we do see an inclination towards gender imbalance in the workplace, where mothers traditionally adopt the role of ‘nurturer’ for their children and the fathers become the ‘providers’. If one needs to take a backseat at this time, mostly, women choose to do so. We have a long way to go before we can get this culture and mind-set to gradually change.
From Ms Sandhya Shetty
Sales and marketing manager in Dubai