Exemplar Employers Best Practice Recommendations Women Returners

In 2007 Opportunity Now partnered with the Government Equalities Office to identify 100 Exemplar Employers who were doing innovative work to address, Occupational Segration, Equal Pay, Flexible Working, Training and Development, and Women Returners. Today the best practice recommendations are still relavent and provide an excellent basis for developing strategies to progress the narrowing of the gender pay gap and to improve opportunities for women in the workplace.

Not all these ideas will apply to every organisation, but they have been identified as best practice from the Exemplar Employer projects submitted.

Developing Policies
■Survey all women who have returned from maternity leave in the previous year or two about their experiences before, during and on return from maternity leave. Then test this data in focus groups
■Appoint an external company to explore employees’ experiences of maternity at the organisation to identify areas for improvement
■Set up listening forums or focus groups to consult working mothers about their experiences
■Pilot schemes to see whether they address the issues identified before rolling out
■Set up a project to review barriers to home working
■Undertake a feasibility study to ascertain the likely take-up of an emergency childcare booking facility
■Appoint a Maternity Specialist on the HR Team to meet all expectant mums and support both the individual and their manager through the process
■Appoint Champions across the business to sponsor work on returning mothers and to take responsibility for education and training
■Set up training to help managers and internal coaches better understand the psychological and emotional changes that women go through around maternity
■Introduce measures and benchmarks to track progress more effectively

Services for Expectant Mothers
■Provide an information pack for all women expecting or adopting, explaining what they need to do and what support is available from the company
■Produce a ‘New and Expectant Parents’ brochure with information on the company’s family friendly policies, such as, maternity/paternity policies, seminars for parents, salary sacrifice for childcare vouchers, flexible working, career choices and external support organisations
■Ensure that brochures and information packs are downloadable from the intranet
■Make available an on-line occupational health risk assessment for pregnant women
■Hold a Pre-Maternity Leave workshop to allow staff to research their options and hear about the experiences of other working mothers in the organisation
■Hold pre-maternity seminars with sessions from the Equal Opportunities Officer, local health visitors, staff from Pay Section, and the Managing Absence Team, as well as external guest speakers
■Offer seminars and health programmes for women, with advice on nutrition, exercise stress awareness, work/life balance and possible childcare options
■Set up a maternity buddy scheme, pairing those about to go on maternity leave with someone in a similar role who has already returned to work
■Set up a Maternity Mentoring scheme to support women before and after maternity breaks
■Set up maternity coaching on an individual and group basis
■Arrange 1:1 coaching for senior women going on maternity leave about handling their clients and other responsibilities
■Offer a company gift on the birth of each child
■Ensure a smooth cashflow for those on maternity leave
■Send regular maternity letters as part of a keep in touch policy and to offer advice on any new vacancies or promotional opportunities
■Introduce a Fertility Treatment Policy allowing additional leave for those either going through the treatment or supporting a partner

Supporting Managers
■Set up training to help managers manage and support women before, during and after maternity leave, and offer it automatically to all managers of pregnant employees
■Arrange follow-up sessions with managers to focus on working in partnership with their employee on reintegrating back into the business
■Develop a set of manager’s guidelines on maternity/family friendly policy and ensuring an easy transition back to work
■Emphasise the importance to managers of maintaining communication during the maternity break and provide a set of template letters, eg, welcome back
■Develop checklists for HR representatives, career counsellors and line managers to ensure clear, sensitive, two way communication with an employee before, during and after their return to work

Helping Women Returners Reintegrate into the Workplace
■Develop an induction programme and tailored development objectives for women returners
■Offer seminars when staff are coming back to work from maternity leave, providing an opportunity to meet other working mothers and discuss nurseries, healthcare, working options and any other issues of concern
■Provide a ‘Return to Work’ pack or series of booklets detailing all the steps employees and their supervisors should take, before their departure, and before and during their return
■Provide relevant information to staff to help them think about their health and well-being as well as focussing on their work-life balance in terms of a return to work
■Set up a website for women returners, covering maternity/paternity, work/life balance, career progression, childcare, women’s network, maternity mentoring, employees’ rights and research
■Provide a staff pack, with monthly/weekly prompts, a practical check-list, eg, where to locate new HR policy, how to deal with email/phones/office storage during absence and on return
■Offer a phased return to work on full pay
■Keep in touch with women who have left the workplace to raise a family to remain the first choice employer when they do decide to return to work
■Develop a self-appraisal toolkit for women to reassess their skills prior to returning to work
■Design recruitment programmes to attract talented women returners by providing networking opportunities and workshops
■Profile role models in staff newsletters to reinforce best practice
■In attracting women who have been out of the workforce for some time, bear in mind the need to provide a more supportive environment, subsidised travel and childcare costs.

Training for Returners
■Make training as accessible as possible. For those without a PC, provide multi-media sites with learning facilities
■Provide online support through the intranet and a newsletter
■Where possible, deliver any face to face training in modules and as flexibly as possible so it can be fitted around commitments outside work
■Consider funding distance learning for employees on maternity leave
■For those who have been out of the workforce for some time, provide training in softer skills, such as, confidence building, team working and effective communications; and in workplace issues such as stereotyping in the workplace, work/life balance options, and perceived barriers to employment