• Emma Waltham

Line managers, employee journeys and attitudes - three key elements of cultural change

When companies identify an issue within their organisation that they want to address – whether it’s tackling their gender pay gaps, retaining mums after maternity leave, or improving their reputation as a family-friendly employer – it can be daunting, and difficult to know where to start. How do you make sure you’re tackling the issue at a company-wide level? How do you create a genuine, lasting cultural shift?


Written by Dr Emma Waltham | Maternity Returners Expert



When partnering with clients, I frequently see three key elements across organisations that, when addressed, really shift the dial in attitudes and culture and create workplaces where working mums feel valued, supported and want to stay and develop their careers.


HR and line management

Are your company’s line managers supportive and empathetic? Are they aware of biases, such as maternity bias? Do they have the right training to confidently and compassionately discuss pregnancy and maternity?


During a recent workshop, several mums discussed how their managers’ attitudes had negatively impacted on their engagement and mental health – particularly during maternity leave:


“You either have a good line manager or you don’t, and my line manager, in terms of people skills and people management skills, he’s self-declared that he isn’t very good. My last day I had five minutes at five to five to say, you’re off now. There was no structure behind it, no serious conversation.”

“Managers don’t have the adequate training… My boss has never had a pregnant employee before; when I first told him I was pregnant, it was quite a negative experience. It can be a bit of a taboo situation because they don’t know what to do, because they’ve not been trained in it.”

Attitudes and behaviours

Companies also need to examine broader behaviours and attitudes towards gender and maternity, particularly among senior management. Is there a sense of allyship, openness and empathy? Or are women at risk of gender and maternity discrimination?


“There is an institutionalised culture where this is a man’s world and it’s been very difficult for women to progress.”

Employee journey

It’s vital that pregnant women and returning mums receive clear and consistent information and support. Do your returning mums have clear career paths? Are procedures – for example, around promotion – fair and transparent? Are flexible working requests handled fairly? If not, it’s easy for staff to become frustrated and disengaged:


“I still haven’t had a letter to confirm that I’ve gone off yet. I don’t know at what point do I stop getting paid? At what point do I need to come back to work? Can I use my annual leave? How do I use my KIT days?”

New: Returners Toolkit

Our new web-based Returners Toolkit is a self-directed training resource. It contains everything you need to create a best-practice framework, along with timely guidance in the form of pdfs and bite-size videos to support managers and returning mums - all in one place.


Cost-effective and quick and easy to set up, the Toolkit’s engaging materials will help your company create a positive employee experience for your maternity returners, so that they want to return and are better able to thrive, with the organisation reaping the benefits of higher retention, productivity, as well as a strengthened female talent pipeline.


Drop me a message, and let’s start a conversation about how you can implement a Returners Toolkit that meets the needs of your organisation, and ensure that 2023 will be the year you successfully begin re-engaging your returning mums.

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