A 2017 report by Ovia Health found that 34% of women did not return to their job after having a child. Research from New York University published in 2019 found that nearly half of new mothers and one-quarter of new fathers leave full-time STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs after having children.

With companies doing their best to retain every bit of talent possible in a tight labour market, helping new parents be engaged enough to want to come back to work and then ease back into the workplace becomes more important than ever.

There are three things parents need and want as they go back to work:


Indeed’s research found that new mothers said they needed an average of 22 weeks of maternity leave but received an average of just 10 weeks. New fathers were able to take an average of seven weeks of leave, but felt they needed 10.

You’re more likely to keep someone who believes that their employer values them. And if their employer values them as whole people, which includes their parental status, that person is going to likely feel more positively about their workplace.


Another interesting finding from the Indeed study was that, on average, working mothers work 15 weeks before their babies start sleeping through the night—roughly 105 sleep-disrupted nights. Fathers work an average of 16 sleepless weeks before their new additions clock a full night’s shut-eye. New morning routines are often difficult to manage, especially at first. Eighty-four percent of first-time mothers and 80% of first-time fathers said they would benefit from having more flexible morning start times.

Being aware of those additional challenges during the first weeks back to work and anticipating that new parents may be tired and stressed can help.

Also, after preparing for leave, then being on leave—sometimes, for several months—employees who return and feel like fish out of water. Have frequent communication with the employee to gauge whether they’re having any issues with overwork, lack of meaningful work, or other areas. Be ready to adapt to the employee’s needs and capabilities for the best outcomes.


Talk to employees and determine what their needs are. For example, breastfeeding mothers will need a place to nurse or pump breast milk. Providing a comfortable, attractive place to do so is appreciated. For women who travel, access to breast milk shipping services can also ease some of the challenges of pumping on the road.

By working closely with new parents to meet their needs during a stressful period in their lives, you can help them be more successful and happier, while potentially boosting retention—and attracting new employees.

For further support & advice contact EAP Assist.