As an employer, you have a commitment to your employee as much as your employee has a commitment to you.
Going on maternity leave is a nerve wracking business, particularly the first time, and a pregnant woman who is committed to her job, wants to know you - her employer - can commit to her too.
So what can you do as an employer?
There are a few key things that will help the process:
Congratulate your employee on her pregnancy
Reassure her you will work with her to plan her return to the business after maternity leave
Discuss how she would like to be communicated with while she is away
Ask whether she would like to be invited in for company/team meetings
Aim to agree a provisional return date and discuss how you will plan the time in between
In the time when she is on maternity leave agree what that plan looks like
Respect her wishes
Keep in mind here that the statutory process states the mother does not have to give you a return to work date. A good way to determine the level of contact is to discuss a plan up front before your employee goes on maternity leave. This can be a fluid chat followed up by email, or if you would prefer something more formal jot down the notes and follow up with a letter.
Ask your employee the following questions:
How much contact would you like to have from the company while you are on maternity leave? (note this refers to the company contacting the employee) Weekly, Monthly, No contact or Other (discuss what other means)
How long do you expect to be on maternity leave? (note the employee does not need to give you a date specific date)
What can the company do to ensure you feel connected to the business?
What concerns, if any, do you have about returning to work?
Would you expect to use your KIT days?
Keep a note of the information you gather, log the information on the employee file and ensure your HR team and/or the line manager are prepared to manage the contact. Diarise the contact dates if monthly for example to ensure the employee’s wishes are met.