The vast majority (95 per cent) of Canadian working mothers said they didn’t receive any formal support from their employer during their maternity leave transition, according to a new report by advocacy group Moms at Work.
The survey, which polled more than 1,000 Canadian women who took maternity leave in the last 10 years, found more than a third (40 per cent) said they considered quitting their jobs during the return-to-work process. In addition, 79 per cent said their return to work could have been managed better and 18 per cent didn’t have a contact for their return to work. More than half (58 per cent) of workplaces don’t have formal policies around maternity leave and return to work, while the same percentage said their employer wasn’t prepared for their return to work.
“Those that indicated their employer offered some form of maternity leave or return-to-work support noted that it was often in the form of a short workshop or brief conversation with [human resources],” noted the report. “There is much more employers can do to better support women through pregnancy at work and maternity leave such as having formal procedures in place, developing transition plans, assigning a manager or member of [human resources] to help employees navigate the process and offering resources.”
The survey also found 33 per cent of respondents reported they were discriminated against due to becoming, or being, a mother in the workplace. The most common instances of discrimination experienced were poor treatment and derogatory comments; denied opportunities to develop professionally; a layoff, restructure or demotion; denied promotion, new role or advancement in earnings; and inadequate or denial of accommodations.
In addition, 69 per cent of working mothers said they weren’t provided options for communication during their maternity leave. “Survey respondents indicated that they would have liked to be kept in the loop: remaining on the email list, having an out-of-office for their email, being informed of company announcements or changes, awards, details about colleagues, promotion opportunities or internal job postings,” said the report.
The survey also found more than three-quarters (79 per cent) of working mothers said their employer didn’t provide any options for a graduated return to work. The report called a graduated return to work the gold standard in every other type of work leave, including disability, workers compensation and stress leave.
“Repeatedly, studies have shown this approach to have significant cost savings with benefits for both employees and employers,” noted the report. “Graduated return to work increases worker retention, reduces sick time and overall leave time. For those who personally requested a gradual return to work, that request was often denied — and in many instances, no reason was given for the denial.”