Getting Back to Work: Helping Parents Transition After Leave

Mentor moms, nanny allowances and milk delivery are just a few ways that these top companies have found to make life easier for parents returning to work after the arrival of a child.

 

In an era when it’s becoming the norm for both parents to work, more and more companies are making generous parental leave packages part of their approach to attracting top talent. But what happens when the leave ends? Getting back to work after childbirth can be incredibly stressful, placing demands on new parents’ emotions, sleep schedules and wallets.

OpenWork took a look at five innovative companies who are finding innovative ways to welcome parents back to the workforce — not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s smart business too.

1. Mentor Moms at PwC

Global professional services firm PwC may be best known as the company that oversees the top-secret handling of the Oscars envelopes, but they are also trailblazers in a lower-profile field: welcoming new parents back into the workplace.

When a PwC employee chooses not to return to work after welcoming a new child, it costs the company around $120,000, Diversity Strategy Leader Jennifer Allyn told CNN. That means that it pays to do whatever it takes to entice new parents back into the workforce, and PwC has pulled out all the stops, offering telecommuting programs, six weeks of paid time off for men and women, and adoption reimbursement up to $6,000. But perhaps their most radical approach is the Mentor Moms program, which pairs new mothers with other working moms in the company, giving them someone to confide in about the unique difficulties of balancing work and a new baby. “New moms want to talk to other moms about how to make it all work,” says Allyn, “how to juggle work and motherhood. It’s a new identity being a new mom and a new working mom.”

Returning parents are also given the option of skipping their annual review after they come back, allowing them to worry less about performance than in simply getting their work done. “The notion of comparing someone working a full year to someone who was out for 16 weeks isn’t an apples to apples comparison,” says Allyn.

2. New Mom Travel Kits from EY

Like PwC, EY (formerly Ernst & Young) is one of the world’s “Big Four” accounting firms, with offices all over the globe. That global reach presents unique challenges for returning parents, who may find it nearly impossible to get back into the swing of traveling in an industry that requires its workers to be constantly on the move. It’s never easy for a new parent to leave their family, but EY makes that transition a little bit easier by offering travel kits for new mothers, which include a top-of-the-line breast pump, and by providing up to $400 in back-up care expenses for traveling parents. “Surprisingly, we have found that our working parents in the U.S. are our most engaged professionals,” says Maryella Gockel, flexibility strategy leader for EY’s American offices, in an interview with Fast Company, adding that a program like this “leads to higher productivity and retention.”

In addition to the support offered to traveling mothers, EY offers lactation rooms at the office, help for single mothers and fathers, postnatal counseling sessions and a coaching program to help mothers and fathers adjust to their new working lives. “Providing this program to a returning mom,” one employee told Fast Company, “even a mom that is returning from leave for the second time, really feels like EY makes me a priority and wants to help me succeed.”

3. Concierge Milk Shipment from IBM

It’s one thing to travel with a breast pump, but how do you get the milk home? A new mother produces bottle after bottle of “liquid gold,” and her baby needs every drop. To stop those little tummies from rumbling, IBM offers to ship home breast milk for women on business trips, saving a massive headache for a mother who has enough to worry about already. “We know we could have just provided a reimbursement and been done with it,” says Barbara Brickmeier, vice president of benefits, in an interview with the Washington Post. “This is really about providing options for new mothers.”

According to the Post, IBM is the only company offering this kind of “concierge” breast milk delivery service, handling not just the cost of shipping but the logistics as well. “We do all the work,” says Brickmeier, “so the mother doesn’t have to think about any of the details.”

4. KKR‘s Nanny Travel Budget

For those who can’t stand the thought of even spending one night away from their new child — and who could blame them? — private equity firm KKR offers to pay for new parents to bring their child and a nanny with them on business trips until the child’s first birthday. It’s an extremely thoughtful arrangement that makes them one of the most mother-friendly firms in the industry, and as KKR partner Suzanne Donohoe told the Washington Post, the company sees it as a way to attract employees who otherwise might stay out of the workforce. “The industry hasn’t done a great job historically of attracting in lots of different types of people,” she says. “We’re very committed to trying to change that.”

Between this program and KKR’s exceptional 16 weeks of paid parental leave, it puts them at the head of the pack of parent-friendly companies. “We can spend years trying to attract people into our firm and growing them over time,” Donohoe says. “But if you’re not thoughtful and supportive during important transitions in their lives, some of that talent could leave the organization.”

5. On-site Daycare at Patagonia‘s Headquarters

Outdoor wear company Patagonia proudly boasts that 100 percent of its new mothers return to work after their maternity leave ends, an accomplishment made possible in part through a classic program that is becoming more rare: in-house daycare. Since 1983, Patagonia has offered on-site daycare and after-school programs to its employees in Ventura, California, and they think it’s good not just for the parents and their kids, but for the company and the whole. “You cannot miss the children on-site,” human resources vice president Dean Carter says in an interview with Bloomberg. “I hear a kid laughing and playing, and there’s something that almost alleviates stress. It just melts off.”

Patagonia spends about $1 million per year on the program, a cost it feels is justified because it allows the company to attract and retain top-notch parental talent. “We found that it’s a really good business decision for us financially,” says Carter.

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