Supporting expectant and new parents in the workplace

Just as the transition to parenthood impacts on all areas of a person’s life, this also includes the context of the workplace.

Becoming a parent is one of the most significant transitions a person will go through in their lifetime.  Many adjustments have to be made to successfully navigate the transition to parenthood… including the fundamental transition from “working person” to “working parent”.

There is much that individuals, colleagues and employers can do to support expectant and new parents through this transition.

Information for employers of new parents

Parents who may be experiencing mental health conditions prior to leaving, or when returning to work following the birth of their baby, may experience a challenging time. Possible lack of sleep coupled with the presence of a mental health condition can have significant impacts on a person’s ability to function at home, at work and on colleagues.

In turn this can also present challenges for employers. If not identified, managed or treated, mental health and wellbeing can increase staff absenteeism, reduce work productivity and increase risks to staff health and safety.

My workplace detected my postnatal depression after long absences from work.

These impacts of NOT identifying and treating these conditions have costly implications.  For example, the cost of not treating antenatal and postnatal depression and anxiety for births in 2012 was estimated at over $500M for one year, with:

  • $310M associated with productivity loss and absenteeism, and
  • $45M attributed to reduced workforce and economic participation.

Hear from Evelyn, a product manager at major digital company, on how she navigated returning to work after the birth of her children:

What can employers do to help parents transition back to work?

Given the higher incidence of stress and mental health problems for new parents, it is wise for organisations to take a proactive approach to identifying, managing and treating these conditions within a workplace context.

There are a few key factors that employers can do to safeguard and support new parents at this time of transition:

  • Ensuring that expectant and new parents have access to important and timely information via the workplace
  • Ensuring employees have knowledge of where and how to access support and treatment within, or external to, the organisation (such as a GP or via an employee assistance program [EAP])
  • Implementing strategies to keep in touch with staff whilst on maternity/paternity leave so as to maintain connection, demonstrate support whilst not being intrusive, and increase the rates of return to work following leave
  • Training and education for managers as to how to identify, respond to and manage perinatal mental health conditions within a workplace setting
  • The implementation of appropriate legal workplace policies to guide and support management practices and protect the rights of employees

For more information and support about how to support managers and staff in the transition to parenthood and adjustment back to work, contact