From Naptimes to I9s: Returning to Work After Maternity Leave

Blog Post created by 1016243 on Jul 17, 2017

Big Brother Lincoln (5) and Estelle


Many of you may have noticed that I have been absent the last few months…we welcomed Estelle “Stella” Hanes Hinesley into the family on March 15.  The last few months have been full of snuggles, some sleepless nights and a full heart but it is time for me to get back to adult conversation and a semi-normal schedule and I returned to work full time on July 5.


I am not “stay at home mom” material—I have always loved working and find that I am a better mom by being a working mom so I knew I would be returning to work (and some days looked forward to it).  That said, after Estelle’s birth I have been busy with not only recovering from a C-section but adjusting to our new family life and the thought of returning to work seemed a bit overwhelming.  Thankfully, prior to my leave, CAI’s HR Manager, Lauren Hardwick and my manager, Rick Washburn had several conversations with me and we were able to plan for my leave and work toward a return-to-work solution that would be beneficial for me and for the company. Having a good plan leading up to my leave and clear expectations regarding my return prepared my coworkers for helping with my workload and for me as I balanced my life-work balance with a new family dynamic.


From a business perspective, any type of leave can be burdensome and leave companies worried about filling the workload during the employee’s absence, however good planning and open communication can bridge the gap between the work/life balance.


Below I have included some tips in preparing for a successful maternity leave for both the company and the employee:


-Prior to leave:

-Setup several conversations between the manager and HR to discuss expectations, deadlines and project transition.  It might be helpful to build in time prior to the employee’s due date to complete tasks and to set a time frame for the employee to not start any new, time sensitive projects in case the mother needs to go out of work earlier than expected.

-Setup a meeting with HR to discuss pay, STD, FMLA (if available), benefits, tentative return date

-Remind employee to setup out of office reminders on email, voicemail, mail, etc. Employee may want to direct             voicemail and emails to a coworker to manage customer expectations and not overwhelm the employee upon             return.

-During Leave:

-HR should check in periodically and have a return to work conversations a few weeks prior to leave ending.

-Be sure to update the employee regarding any major changes at the company-no one wants to hear second hand that there is a reorganization in their department, etc.

-Return to work plan: if able, try to work with the employee to allow for a transition plan allowing the employee flexibility to return to work half days or a few full days a week before returning full time. This will also help the employee to arrange for childcare, do some “test runs” on getting out the door to daycare/school/work and ease into separating from the baby.

-Prepare for Lactation Accommodation: Do you have a space available for the employee to take breaks? You may want to discuss schedule planning for pumping sessions but remain flexible with the mother during her first few weeks back as she may be adjusting to her pumping schedule once she returns to work. See A&R Insight on Nursing Mother Amendment: A&R Insights: Nursing Mother Amendment 

-Return-to Work:

-The first day back might be tough. A “Welcome Back” note or email will do wonders to make the new mother feel supported.

-Plan on a transition back into work duties-if able assign short projects or tasks to allow the employee time to transition back into duties. Allow the employee to block a period to catch up on emails, voicemails, mail, etc.

-Schedule a communication meeting with manager to discuss any staffing changes, projects, transition schedule, etc. 


The most important factor in ensuring a successful leave for mother and company is open communication among the employee, manager and Human Resources from the beginning. Supporting an employee during a life event such as the birth of their children can only strengthen employee engagement and company success.


“Companies are made up families, not just employees. I have the ability and strength to make my professional contributions because of the love and support of my own family. Likewise, as employers, when we get great contributions from our team, we can recognize their support network enables them and appreciate the full picture.”

-Stephanie Weeks, Vice President of User Experience at Blackboard





Now that I am back full time, I look forward to helping you with any labor law or human resource needs! Contact me at Emily Hinesley



Complying with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act 

Nursing Mother Amendment 

FMLA and Pregnancy 

Handbook: Special Items - Lactation Accommodation 

Parental Leave (Maternity) 

A Happier Working Dad 

Women in the Workplace & How to Promote Female Equality