The Importance of Having a Transition Plan for Employees and Employers
While pregnancy is a very exciting time, it can also be a stressful time.
As the mom-to-be enters the final stretch, she is no doubt feeling overwhelmed by her to-do list. And the working mom-to-be has the added responsibility of giving thoughtful consideration to her transition plan at work.
It is not only appropriate, but also important, for employers to have initial conversations on this topic with the pregnant employee well in advance of her final trimester. These early discussions create an open line of communication that should continue throughout the employee’s final days in the office. Such meetings allow an employer to address issues as they arise, and manage them as needed through maternity leave and after the employee’s return to the office. Starting these discussions early ensures that the employee feels supported as a professional, and as a parent, and helps smooth the transition back to work. It’s also good to have these conversations early in case baby decides to make an early appearance!
A good transition plan should include a review of the employee’s workload and projects, and a discussion of forecasted expectations and objectives.
Beginning in her third trimester or earlier, the employee should begin to keep detailed notes on all open projects, including a list of tasks, timelines, and deadlines, and she should share these notes with her supervisor and team. Discussions should begin regarding who will cover these responsibilities, if training is necessary, how long such training will take, and if shadowing would be helpful. There should also be a plan in place in case the employee needs to stop working earlier than expected.
Especially in cases where a great deal of training is needed, all team members should understand what will happen upon the new mom’s return to the office. Will the returning employee recapture her responsibilities? Will the role be shared? If shared, will the new mom be losing responsibilities, and, if so, will she welcome this, given her new responsibilities at home? Will the new role be forfeited by the covering employee? Will any of these decisions create tension among colleagues? What if the new mom needs some extra time before she returns to work? Can she add accrued leave time to her maternity leave? It’s invaluable to have these types of discussions well in advance of the mom-to-be’s anticipated departure.
Another important discussion should center on employer expectations during maternity leave. Will the new mom be expected to follow up with clients, check in with the office, or offer support to her team? How soon after delivery will she be expected to be available? This gray area can become murky, and even murkier in the case of an earlier than expected departure from work. Laws vary in this area, and it’s crucial that employers understand their obligations.
Depending on the employee’s position and responsibilities, a “do not disturb” period following delivery may not be realistic, but with a solid transition plan in place, the employee can be confident that personal boundaries will be respected, and the employer can be assured that work will continue seamlessly. By clearly defining expectations, both parties will have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and goals.
Around the same time, the employer should also discuss maternity benefits and options for the employee upon her return to the office. While she might not know if she will be breastfeeding, it is important for the employer to state its support for the employee to pump at the office, encourage her to register with the corporate lactation program, and provide her with her breastfeeding bill of rights. This document should outline her ability to access a legally compliant mothers’ room to fulfill her needs, as well as her ability to take breaks, as needed, to express her milk. MommaWork is available to assist employers with the provision of all corporate lactation services.
The employer can also help the new mom by having her work with a parental leave coach, such as those available through MommaWork, to help master new-parent sleep patterns, plan ongoing and backup childcare, identify and maintain a professional support system, and maintain efficiency following the transition back to the office. These services can also be beneficial to—and appreciated by—the new father.
Once a solid transition plan has been formed, it should be agreed to, in writing, and shared with all those impacted, to prevent misunderstandings and ensure that both the employer and employee have a clear view of the new landscape. MommaWork is available to assist with documenting such agreements.
Producing a workable transition plan doesn’t require a great deal of time or effort, and it ensures a smooth transition during a very special time in the employee’s life. It also demonstrates an employer’s concern and sensitivity, which builds trust and loyalty. More and more companies are embracing the transparency and comfort provided by a well-thought out transition plan, and are ultimately enjoying real and lasting benefits as a result.
– Debi Yadegari, JD, is a working mother of five, lactation law specialist, and the CEO and Founder of MommaWork.