How to make it work post Mat Leave



HR Search sponsored and collaborated with the DCU Leadership and Talent Institute who undertook a large qualitative study focused on the barriers and enablers that impact re-integration into the work place post Mat leave. This research was led by Yseult Freeney, David Collings and Lisa van der Werff who started by surveying over 300 women and who interviewed over 90 people across 30 industry leading organisations – a huge undertaking!

We launched the findings last week in the Shelbourne hotel, whereby over 150 HR professionals gathered to hear from the researchers and a panel conversation.




Why did this topic gain such huge interest from our network? The big picture…

The talent agenda is one of the most pressing challenges for organisations and HR leaders globally. With so much time and money invested into TA and Talent Development to attract and retain strong people, based on this research, companies are missing a beat when it comes to positively communicating pre,during and post mat leave to retain engaged and positive employees.

When a woman comes to this career juncture of having a family – Is this just a brief interlude in a 30-40 year career? Yes (is the right answer!). However, this study showed that often this a time whereby a woman’s career may be derailed and talent is lost as a result of unconscious bias, professional relationship challenges, or a lack of open communication around expectations.

Ultimately firms should not allow their top talent to become “corporate refugees” and to allow them to walk out the door for various reasons.

The support and flexibility of an employer, whether direct from line manager or HR is critical at this juncture in a person’s career. One of the main influencers in making this transition a positive one is the persons line manager – whereby (often unintentionally!) communication breaks down. As HR professionals and as leaders, on-going training & initiatives to educate and give line managers the tools to work proactively and authentically pre, during and post mat leave is essential.

As part of my role, I often see first-hand the true ramifications on retention levels, longevity in a firm, job satisfaction, and overall employee well-being. I often get an insight beyond the practicalities of a “maternity policy” and truly get an honest and often emotional account on the struggles and wins for women returning to work. These factors can swing both positively and negatively and we heard both sides of the spectrum as a result of this report.


I am particularly happy to hear that there were positive, best practice stories from organisations who are on the right path! Throughout the panel discussion Ita Langton, who was promoted to partner while on Mat leave in Deloitte spoke about her experience, and Bernie O’Connor showcased excellent initiatives embarked on by ESB to promote this area. Tanya Thomas spoke through the realities of what she is seeing in the market place and how, if behaviors towards working mothers comes from the top do, companies see a renewed loyalty, energy and longevity of service.

Both from a personal and professional point of view, I believe this is a topic and area that needs constant focus in an organisation – it was a passion project for us and ties into our core value of supporting the HR community.


If you would like a copy of the final report, please feel free to get in touch!