Canadian Employers Are Failing Mothers Returning from Mat Leave

struggle returning to work after maternity leave
A young mother, works from her desk at home participating in an online video conference.

A new survey of over 1,000 Canadian women by Moms at Work, Canada’s largest community for working mothers, has revealed that an overwhelming majority of mothers felt unsupported and were not provided clear directions on how their return to work would be managed. This is surprising given that 40 per cent of their survey participants indicated that their company did have formal policies and procedures in place for maternity leave and return to work.

But is it really surprising, though? Besides maybe what to wear, most articles about returning to work from mat leave focus on the mother’s transition from home, not to work. And in this day and age, there’s genuine concern that we may not have a job to return to. It’s no wonder that another 40 per cent of survey respondants admitted they considered quitting during the return to work process. It starts to feel intentional.

Way back when I returned to the workplace after my first maternity leave, the pride I was feeling due to actually wearing my pre-pregnancy work clothes quickly dissipated once I realized that noone was expecting me. There was no onboarding, no consultation with HR, no “welcome back” email. There wasn’t even a “Hello!” Which was surprising to me since, unlike 69 per cent of those surveyed, I was able to log in and check email and stay on top of company happenings during my leave.

Some Key Findings from the 2021 Maternity Leave Experience Report

  • 95% did not receive any formal support during their mat leave transition
  • 79% felt their return to work could have been managed better
  • 18% did not have a contact for their return to work
  • 58% of workplaces do not have formal policies around maternity leave and return to work
  • 58%  said their employer was not prepared for their return to work
  • 79% were not provided any options for a graduated return to work

Sadly, 33 per cent said they they were discriminated against due to becoming, or being a mother in the workplace. Fortunately, beyond a bit of stink eye when I was leaving at 5:00pm, I can’t say the same. However, I can say that becoming a mother made me much more efficient at my job, so I was no longer wasting time during the day which would often result in late nights in the office.

According to the report, “Maternity leave and the years surrounding it represent the largest single point in women offramp from corporate organizations.” If we’re going to help mothers beyond chore management at home and fitting back into their work wardrobe, rallying for improved processes for maternity leave and return-to-work protocols supports both companies and women while helping organizations reach their targets on inclusion, diversity, and equity.

HR professional Allison Vendetti, the creator of the Moms at Work community, recently launched Ready to Return: “Canada’s first and only comprehensive program and certification created to support employers, parents and helping professionals improve the maternity leave and return-to-work process. Our experts design and deliver impactful, supportive and cutting edge training, certification and programming.”

The entire Moms at Work Maternity Leave Experience Report can be viewed here.


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