IMG_0135_crop.jpg

Accommodations and Support

Enable a Successful Return to Work and Support for Working Parents

According to a recent study, 75% of expecting moms are eager to return to work after having a child. Yet, 43% of them wind up leaving their positions after birth. Why is this? The struggle to balance work and new parenthood may prove too great for many, juggling the emotional, physical, and financial  demands of new parenthood, and a return to work. (1)

 

Offering extra support during pregnancy and through the transition back to work can help improve the retention rate of talented employees and should be an integral part of an organization’s human resources strategy. 

 
 
 
 
 

Return to Work Programs

 

What

 

Return to work programs, or re-onboarding programs help with the reintegration of employees who have been on leave from work, whether due to maternity/paternity, or another type of leave, such as medical. There are many ways companies can help employees before, during and after their transition back to work. Some of these transition strategies may include:

  • Educating managers to empower and support employees

  • Establishing a corporate culture of permission

  • Asking what employees need

  • Planning ahead when possible

  • Building a transition team

  • Encouraging employees to take leave when needed

  • Being flexible

  • Assisting wherever you can

  • Focusing on the work, not the hours

Open, upfront attention to available support for leave and re-onboarding before an employee ever needs it helps to establish an environment that recognizes family needs and encourages open communication and planning between employers and employees.

Benefits

 

Helping employees plan ahead while offering support when they return eases the transition for everyone. These programs help smooth and speed the path for returning employees entering or returning from leave, and ease much of the anxiety and disruption not only for that employee, but for your entire team. 

 

According to Bright Horizons, roughly 80 companies have recently implemented new “return-to-work” programs in the last couple of years to better retain employees and mitigate the stress that new parents and others experience upon resuming their jobs. (2)

Returnships

What

 

Re-entry internships enable companies and professionals to assess fit before entering into a permanent arrangement, in the same way that internships do for college graduates. Return to work programs often incorporate skills training, coaching, peer support, and opportunities in paid project assignments and can be key to attracting talented job seekers who have taken career breaks.  

 

There is a growing list of companies that  provide partnership opportunities with businesses to develop, pilot, and publicize returnship programs:

Benefits

 

In a competitive employment market, businesses may benefit from nontraditional ways to find diverse technical talent. Employees returning to the workforce can bring professional maturity, commitment, and stability. While women’s labor force participation increased substantially in the U.S. over the second half of the 20th century, this growth has stagnated and reversed since 2000, with participation falling by 3.5 percentage points. Notably, the drop has been widespread for women aged 25 to 54. Mothers with children younger than 18 are less likely to participate in the labor force now than they were in 2000. (3)  

 

According to a 2016 Manpower survey, 84% of millennials anticipate taking a break at some point in their career – so developing programs now may help meet future needs. (4)

Expectant and New Parent Parking

 

What

Designated parking spaces for expecting and new parents.

Benefits

This is a matter of safety for expecting parents, especially when the pregnancy causes additional health challenges. It is also a low cost or free offering that demonstrates an employer’s commitment to cultivating a family-friendly workplace environment. New parents benefit from having more space to unload children, the ability to get in and out more quickly, and shorter distances between their car and the business.

New Parent/Caregiver Support Groups

 

What

 

Access to a support network throughout the workplace. Examples include:

Benefits of Implementing 

 

New parent/caregiver support groups can reduce employee stress, create community, facilitate sharing of information/resources, and elevate awareness of working family issues across the company.

Employee Assistance Programs 

What 

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are voluntary, work-based programs that offer free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems. Examples include:

  • Offering employees access to a hotline 24 hours a day.

  • EAPs that address a broad range of issues including substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems, and psychological disorders.

  • EAPs that provide referrals to child and eldercare resources.

Benefit

 

EAPs have been found to have business benefits, including increased productivity of employees and decreased absenteeism and greater retention.

Lactation (Breastfeeding) Support and Accommodations

What it is

Both California and federal law require employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time to accommodate an employee desiring to express breast milk for the employee’s infant child, and to make reasonable efforts to provide the employee with the use of a room or other location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the employee’s work area, for the employee to express milk in private. 

 

California Labor Code Section1030 requires employers to accommodate breastfeeding mothers who need comfort and support when they return to the workplace.  The law sets forth a detailed list of requirements employers must follow regarding lactation accommodations including:

  • Break time when needing to express milk

  • An expansion of lactation room necessities, (including ensuring the safe is safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials)

  • Providing a place to sit and access to running water, etc. 

 

The law also requires employers to develop and implement a formal lactation policy. For specific questions on the accommodations or policies legally required, please check with your attorney.

The Central Coast Breastfeeding Coalition has a webpage dedicated to resources on breastfeeding in the workplace.   

 

The following are links for guidance and lactation support for employers related to breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace:

Benefits 

 

Lactation-friendly accommodations in the workplace can boost employee productivity and morale, decrease absenteeism, lower health care costs, and assist in the recruitment of female employees. Breastfed babies are healthier, which means mothers are less stressed and less likely to miss work. Because breastfed babies get sick less often, one-day absences from work are half as common among mothers that breastfeed. Cigna found that for 343 employees who participated in a lactation program, there were $240,000 savings in health care expenses. (5) Plus, researchers at Brown University reported that breastfeeding alone can boost a baby’s brain growth by as much as 20 to 30 percent! (6)

 

Workplaces of all sizes and in a variety of sectors (including manufacturing and retail) successfully accommodate nursing mothers. It is important to note that not all mothers are physically able to breastfeed and that some mothers may choose to not breastfeed. Above all else, every employee’s needs and privacy should be respected.

Resource and Referral 

What

In the San Luis Obispo County area, there are a number of resources for parents with young children, including home visiting, early intervention, and parent education resources for families including matching resources with income eligibility. 

 

The United Way SLO County’s 2-1-1 Navigation Center is an up-to-date resource and referral program. It is a free program that is a one-stop way to get timely access to health and human services information and referrals 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The phone line is free, confidential, and provides bilingual assistance.

 

Additional supportive organizations include SLO County Help Me GrowParent Connection, and Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo County

Infants-at-work

What it is

A written “Infants at Work” policy supports parents who want to bring babies into the office or workplace. Policies establish parameters and expectations to ensure that babies are not disruptive to coworkers and that all employees effectively complete their work.  While individual infants-at-work policies differ, on average babies come to the workplace until around six to eight months old or until they are starting to crawl. Again, any implementation or consideration of such a policy should be done in consultation with your legal representative, as this summary is not and should not be construed as legal advice.

A recent study conservatively estimates that over 200 U.S. organizations across 35+ industries have paved the way for more than 2,000 babies to successfully join their parents at the workplace. (7)  

  • A clearly written policy outlines parent responsibilities and co-worker expectations and generally provides guidance on the age of babies permitted at work.

  • Written policies often clarify parameters with language such as “until the infant reaches the age of 1 or starts to crawl, whichever comes first.”

  • Many companies have parents sign legal waiver forms, and some insurance companies will cover a babies-at-work program under their general liability coverage or provide a rider for the program.

Visit the Parenting in the Workplace Institute (PIWI) web site at www.babiesatwork.org. to learn more about this practice, find resources on the implementation of formal programs in which parents can bring their children to work and care for them while doing their jobs, and for an Infants and Work policy template.

BABIES-AT-WORK Program Guidance and Sample Policies: Parenting in the Workplace Institute

Benefits 

 

Allowing parents to bring their babies to work for the first several months of life greatly increases employee retention, especially among mothers. Companies with infants-at-work programs have found that mothers frequently return from maternity leave much earlier for greater financial stability as well as to benefit from the social network of the workplace, resulting in cost savings. Baby-inclusive companies report higher levels of teamwork and collaboration as a result of the program, which is frequently  linked with higher productivity. Both mothers and fathers in structured baby programs work very hard at their jobs to ensure that the baby program will be maintained, and they tend to become increasingly efficient as they learn to balance baby care with work tasks. This higher productivity and increased dedication to the organization result in higher long-term productivity by participating parents.  Surveys have found that management and co-workers generally report positive impacts on workplace culture, and indicate very little disruption of operations and productivity. Finally, organizations with these programs have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers and clients as a result of their infant program. (7) 

 
 
 

References

  1. The leading family benefits solution. (n.d.). Maven. https://www.mavenclinic.com/

  2. Huang, G. (2017, February 9). After maternity leave: How companies can support new parents’ transition back to work. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgenehuang/2017/02/09/after-maternity-leave-how-companies-can-support-new-parents-transition-back-to-work/

  3. Cohn, D., Livingston, G. & Wang, W. (2014, April 8). Stay-at-home mothers on the rise. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/04/08/after-decades-of-decline-a-rise-in-stay-at-home-mothers/

  4. Stafylarakis, M. (2017, January 23). The learning proposition for millennials. https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/the-learning-proposition-for-millennials

  5. Office on Women’s Health. (2008). The business case for breastfeeding. https://www.womenshealth.gov/files/documents/bcfb_business-case-for-breastfeeding-for-business-managers.pdf

  6. Bergland, C. (2013, June 8). Breastfeeding boosts the brain development of a baby. Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201306/breastfeeding-boosts-the-brain-development-baby

  7. Parenting in the Workplace Institute. (n.d.). https://www.babiesatwork.org