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Helping businesses retain returning mums: Returner Survey results

Helping businesses retain returning mums: Returner Survey results Employers can take small steps to make a big difference to women returning from maternity leave, according to new research from Successful Mums founder Jane Knight and OneFile’s Susanna Lawson.

The Returner Survey, inspired by Jane and Susanna’s own experiences as mums and business women, was completed by more than 850 women last month. It asked women about the support they received after maternity or adoption leave and the impact it had on their well-being and performance.

  The results are now in and offer a wealth of information and insights into how employers can ease returners’ transition back to work and boost their chances of keeping the skills, experience and potential of these women within their organisations for longer.

Headline findings:
  • While the results highlighted huge disparities in the approach organisations take to returning mums, an encouraging 70% of respondents were offered part-time contracts upon their return to work. However, 71% felt their employers could have done more to support them.
  • Only 54% were offered flexible hours and just 27% the option of a gradual return to work. This suggests employers could do more to offer working patterns that enable returners to deliver their goals around the needs of their lives outside work.
  • A huge 84% of returners said they needed additional training on new products or systems but only 27% received it, meaning that more than half of returners were expected to adapt to changes in the workplace without key information.
  • Only 14% of mums said they were offered a “welcome back” lunch and only 32% were introduced to new staff. Transitioning from being a full-time mum back into work life can be quite a culture shock but personal touches can make all the difference to a returner’s experience.
  • 55% of returners who did not feel supported left their company, compared to just 10% of those who felt very well supported. Mums who felt they were not well supported were also twice as likely to leave within three months of returning.
  • Even if mums stay in their role, inadequate support can have a negative effect on their engagement and performance. 73% of returners who were not well supported said their engagement dropped after going back to work, whereas a quarter of mums who were well supported said their engagement actually increased. Meanwhile, 21% of supported returners said their performance had improved, compared to just 15% of mums who were not well supported.
These findings provide clear evidence that a positive experience is not just good for mums – it’s good for business. Supporting returners can have real benefits in terms of staff retention, engagement, performance and motivation, while reducing costs associated with recruitment, disruption and loss of productivity.

Implementing an effective return-to-work programme for mums does not have to be difficult or expensive – it’s all about being open-minded, flexible and sensitive to returners’ needs. Though 61% of mums told us that part-time working, flexible hours and a gradual return were the most effective support methods, it’s clear that these steps only enable mums to return to work.

The softer, personal touches – which demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of returners’ experiences – are also key in making them feel more comfortable, welcome and respected as employees. Indeed, 60% of mums told us that their employers taking the time to introduce them to new members of staff or arranging “welcome back” drinks would have put them at ease and made them feel more valued.

Successful Mums and OneFile is now working with employers who want to ensure the best possible outcomes for their returning mums and their business. For more information on our training programmes for senior and operational staff, and to find out how we can help your organisation take small steps that lead to big changes, contact

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