3 things HR can do to support returners from long term leave

Two young women working together, office interior

Whether an employee has just returned from maternity leave, Shared Parental Leave or a career break, a lengthy absence from work can be tough for the individual - and if not managed appropriately - the business.

Consider supporting your employees by meeting with them during their first week back and answering any HR-related questions they may have. In addition, you could offer them a mini coaching session by encouraging them to reflect more widely on:

1. The changes to them as individuals and how these may positively impact their professional role.

For example:

  • What are my values?
  • What are my personal and professional priorities this year?
  • As a parent or carer, can I develop a stronger support network as well as contingency plans to help me?
  • If I am working flexibly now, what changes do I need to make to my time and self-management skills?

2. The changes at work

Suggest an early meeting with the returner’s manager and team to establish what has changed since the employee has been away. This will then enable them to create a reintegration plan. You may be able to help update them with the wider, organisational changes from a HR perspective. Consider also the other pieces of the jigsaw:

  • New people
  • New manager
  • New systems
  • New structure
  • New strategy
  • New culture....?

3. The fresh perspective that a returner brings from a period of time away from work

Seeing their return to work as an opportunity to reflect on the employee's role and future direction. This may be the only lengthy period of absence from working life - so grasp the opportunity that a fresh perspective brings to personal confidence and team productivity! Consider:

  •  What questions do I have around processes or plans that may help me and others develop a new perspective?
  • What elements of my job do I love?
  • What do I dislike?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • What have I learnt from my break from work that I can apply on return?

We are happy to advise HR on how to hold really strong ‘welcome back’ and ‘supporting reintegration’ meetings, which really help returners feel welcomed and valued from day one. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss further.

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