Grace Papers CEO and founder Prue Gilbert said keeping in touch programs informed, guided and empowered new mums to stay connected to their workplaces over the short term, and, when coupled with professional development support, kept them engaged with their careers over the longer-term.
“The research also highlights the unconscious biases women are still expected to challenge to keep their careers on track, and why it is imperative that employers consider the systemic changes required to support managers and peers to overcome these biases,” Gilbert said.
“Smart employers, for example, integrate keeping in touch into a broader parental leave program that equips staff and managers alike with education, communication strategies and tools to transition in and out of work, and address systemic biases like assuming a woman has lost her ambition because she is taking 12 months of parental leave.
“But the game changer is combining self-led professional development support with keeping in touch strategies.
"When women can turn up to a return to work meeting with their employer and feel like they are equipped with the clarity about their career trajectory, the flexibility that will enable them to realise their potential, and the knowledge their contribution makes to their workplace, we level the playing field.
"It is no longer about working mums asking if their bosses will let them work part-time.”
According to Gilbert, acceptance of parental leave and workplace flexibility by people leaders as a critical talent retention lever, is an integral part of the keeping in touch program.
“When people leaders are proactively reaching out to their team members to check in on their well-being, to consult with them about applying for a promotion, or to let them know about a change in structure, it makes the transition back to work far less daunting," she said.
"It reminds them that they have not been invisible.”
Melbourne Water General Manager People and Capability Linda Heron said the organisation recognised working parents played a juggling act and had partnered with Grace Papers to increase the support it offered employees during the parental leave journey.
She said, as a result, Melbourne Water continued to have a high rate of return and retention of employees 12 months post-parental leave.
“The keeping in touch program is helping our employees on parental leave stay connected with Melbourne Water and we had a large group of staff on leave visit the office earlier this year to hear an update about what has been happening in the organisation,” Heron said.
Story: Amelia Harris