Expectant Fathers at Work #BreakingTheBias #IWD2022

Jessica Chivers, founder of The Talent Keeper Specialists.

When the Government introduced Shared Parental Leave in 2015 I was vocal about men needing a ‘use it or lose it’ portion set aside exclusively for them. I even berated Jo Swinson MP over coffee for failing to do this when she was in the coalition Government as Equalities Minister. (I bought the coffee and berated in the gentlest of ways).

The DADB1 petition

After my firm words with Jo I set about creating a petition to Government to create a ‘DADB1’ form for expectant fathers. This was to be the equivalent of the MATB1 form women use to officially notify their employer that they are pregnant. My logic was that this would trigger conversations between men and their employers about taking Shared Parental Leave and alternative work patterns – because they are about to become a parent and surely they want to be actively involved at home which might be better facilitated if they worked less than full time?

Breaking the bias means men taking shared parental leave

I have worked in this space for a long time and I know that things are only going to get substantially better for mothers when fathers are taking parental leave in similar quantities to women and requesting flexibility along the same lines too.

This clip is a snippet from one of three films I recently recorded for Cityparents for HR and line managers on supporting colleagues who are taking parental leave. You can see I take the message about fathers wherever I go…

How to stay strong as a couple after baby

In April the next in our ‘Comeback Conversation’ series (45 minute problem-solving Q&As for people returning to work) is  “How to share the load, reduce conflict and stay strong as a couple after baby”. I’ve invited the marriage therapist Catherine O’Brien and author of the excellent new book, Happy With Baby: When Partners Become Parents, along with husband and wife business duo, Sophie and Dave Smallwood (founders of roleshare.com) to be my guests. You’re invited and I do hope you’ll join us.

Comeback Community employee experience

These Comeback Conversations are part of our Comeback Community™ employee experience utilised by employers such as GAM, FDM Group and Lily’s Kitchen. I decided we’d open up this element for free in 2021 and 2022.

How Comeback Coaching for Maternity Returners impacts Career Development in Professional Services

Comeback coaching is a phrase we coined to describe coaching that supports a person re-entering the world of work after a period of extended leave. We work mainly with women returning to work after maternity leave and this coaching is referred in academic literature as ‘maternity coaching’. Our work is wider than maternity and includes men returning from Shared Parental Leave and both genders returning from sickness absence.

Claudia Filsinger did a small study of the experiences of six women who engaged in maternity coaching in three UK law firms[i]. She also interviewed the three buyers of coaching services in those firms and the two coaches who worked with the returning mothers.



The findings of her study are of interest to professional services organisations who want to:

  • retain women
  • reduce their gender pay gap
  • increase the number of women in Partner/senior roles


Insights for Heads of Talent & Line Managers

Here are some key findings from Claudia’s study (and separate research by Danna Greenberg et al into professional identity when career-oriented women become mothers) we think will be useful to:

  • Women taking maternity leave and other breaks
  • Heads of Talent
  • Heads of Learning & Development
  • Coaching buyers
  • Professional services Partners
  • Line managers of women returning from extended leave


10 Key Findings


  1. Three main factors drive career re-engagement: WORK (quality, nature, volume of work and the kind of clients women return to), RELATIONSHIPS AT WORK (Partners, peers and clients) and ROLE MODELS.
  2. Coaching before a woman goes on maternity leave is helpful because women begin to construct new visions of their future selves during pregnancy and often before. Women who establish a strong vision of their future self as a working mother are more likely to stay engaged and committed to their professions and be more satisfied at work and at home.[ii]
  3. Proactivity and availability appear to be the key influence over what kind of quality and quantity of work women return to at the end of their leave. Senior professionals are likely to find this much easier than juniors as their client network means they can proactively generate work whereas junior (lawyers) are reliant on Partners to source work for them.
  4. Returning to known clients makes career re-engagement easier because having to start over with new clients is akin to being a new employee and slows down the transition. Comeback coaching can help women have conversations about client preferences before they go on leave and negotiate the return handover of their clients as they prepare to return.
  5. Coaching contributes to the returning women’s understanding of Partners’ decisions about work allocation. Women may have misperceptions about why a Partner/their line manager has given her they work she or he has. Coaching helps by encouraging perspective-taking and looking at the wider context.
  6. Partners’ attitude to flexible working and a woman’s changed availability can facilitate a positive or negative career re-engagement. A negative attitude can lead to Partners reducing access to ‘high quality’ work or other opportunities because they believe their team member won’t be able to deliver. However, a 2011 study by The Law Society[iii] reported frequent over-delivery and a discrepancy between perceived and actual client needs.
  7. Partners who show empathy help their returning team member re-engage with her career. Showing support when children are ill; making an effort to integrate her back into the team; planning an appropriate workload and talking about the value she brings are key positive behaviours.
  8. Investing in comeback coaching signals a returning team member’s value and is a source of encouragement. Executive ‘comeback coaches’ are uniquely placed to share experiences of how other mothers managed their transition back to work and onward career development – and this boosts confidence and better equips women for the challenges ahead.
  9. Comeback coaching aids career re-engagement when her family isn’t finished. Coachees who are planning to have another child often talk about being unsure as to whether or not to drive their career forward given they know they’ll be on leave again fairly soon (often within 12 -18 months). Claudia’s study and our experience shows that coaching can help coachees think long-term and drive up motivation and performance in the time immediately following her leave and before she steps away again.
  10. Coaching results in more realistic flexible working requests which helps the different parties involved to achieve a better outcome that is long-term and commercially viable.


1:1 Comeback Coaching at Kilburn & Strode

Watch the 1 minute film about our work with law firm Kilburn & Strode. We coach colleagues returning from maternity, Shared Parental Leave and career breaks. HRD Jonathan Clarke explains why.


[i] Filsinger, C. (2012). How can Maternity Coaching influence Women’s Re-engagement with their Career Development: a Case Study of a Maternity Coaching Programme in UK-Based Private Law Firms, International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 10 (6), pp 46-56.

[ii] Greenberg, D.N., Clair, J.A. and Ladge, J. (2016). Identity and the Transition to Motherhood: Navigating Existing, Temporary and Anticipatory Identities in Spitzmueller, C. and Matthews, R.A. (eds). Research Perspectives on Work and the Transition to Motherhood. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, pp 105-128.

[iii] The Law Society (2011). Obstacles and barriers to the career development of women solicitors. London: The Law Society.

We’re Hiring! Are you our CAN-MAN?

Community Ambassador & Nurture Manager “CAN-MAN”

We’re looking for a warm, proactive, social media-savvy person who has experience of taking extended leave from a corporate environment, to join The Talent Keeper Specialists as our Community Ambassador & Nurture Manager. (Or “CAN-MAN” as we’re affectionately calling you).

It’s a super flexible, part time, home-based role with occasional meetings in St Albans or central London with the founder of the business. We’re looking for 5-7 hours/week at £17/hour and you’ll work with us on a self-employed basis (or as your own limited company).

You’ll be responsible for raising awareness of what we do, to career-orientated people who are on – or recently returned from – maternity/adoption/shared parental leave (the ambassador side) and making sure the people we’re working with are getting the most from every aspect of our Comeback Community™ employee experience (the nurture side). You’ll help people feel as relaxed, upbeat and confident as the woman in the photo!

You’ll be proud to be part of The Talent Keeper Specialists and update your LinkedIn profile to reflect this.


  • Has personal experience of taking extended leave from a commercial environment (e.g. maternity, shared parental, adoption or sick leave).
  • Wants to improve the experience of people returning to work after maternity and other long leaves.
  • Enjoys using, and is active on, Instagram and Facebook (and ideally LinkedIn too).
  • Is naturally warm, positive and enjoys helping people.
  • Is proactive, curious and self-motivated.

It would be a bonus, but not essential, if you have worked in law, accountancy, management consultancy, financial services or in a large blue-chip environment or closely with HR professionals.



We’re on a mission to keep everyone everywhere feeling confident, connected and cared for when they take extended leave from work. We’re a B2B business (our clients are employers rather than individuals, and they include ITV, BlackRock, TJX and Lily’s Kitchen) led by the coaching psychologist and author, Jessica Chivers.

Our main service is 1:1 executive ‘comeback coaching’ which is delivered through a team of associate coaches.

Our Comeback Community™ employee experience is our newest solution and it’s designed to deliver our mission at scale.

These three very short films bring our solutions to life:



  • Jessica, Founder – Your main point of contact will be Jessica Chivers, the founder of the business. You’ll have a fortnightly 30-45 minute catch-up (remotely) to review the past two weeks and plan for the following fortnight.
  • Trish, Coaching Co-ordinator – You’ll need ad hoc contact with Trish for admin bits associated with the NURTURE side of your role.
  • Client Relationship Manager – We’re going to be recruiting this person in 2022 and their role will be to develop new business relationships with Heads of HR, Heads of Learning & Development and Heads of Talent in professional services and financial services organisations. You’ll feed in “eyes and ears” intel’ from the AMBASSADOR side of your role, to this person.



E-mail hello@talentkeepers.co.uk with the subject header: CAN-MAN.

We’ll send you the full role profile and details of how to apply (a one pager about why you think you’d be great at the role plus another little something).

If you get excited about what you read, you can make an application. We really do only want people who are genuinely fired up about the nature of the role and our mission, to apply.

If you love the sound of this role and think you can do it but have a niggling doubt or question, e-mail us about it!

Although it’s a fully flexible, home-based and fairly autonomous role, we’re looking for someone who wants to feel part of a team and come together occasionally. In an ideal world you’ll be with us for years, just like Trish (Jessica’s PA and coaching co-ordinator) and Shiobhaun (our first and longest member of the coach team).

APPLICATIONS OPEN UNTIL 5pm Sunday 31st 2021 – no tricks, only treats!



  • We’ll be in touch to say we’ve received your application. (If you don’t hear from us after a day or two, chase us up).
  • We’re aiming to shortlist 3-5 people by Friday 12th November.
  • If you’re on the ‘shortlist’ we’d love to have a 45 minute virtual cup of tea and chat with you w/c 22nd November.
  • We’d love to offer the right person the job by the end of November and start working with you before Christmas.

How to help colleagues beat the summer strain

Quite by chance* I watched Robert Waldinger’s TED Talk last week on the longest longitudinal study of human happiness. The Harvard study has been running since 1938 and finds high quality personal relationships are the best predictor of happiness, health and longevity.

Here in the summer of 2021 employees’ relationships at home are under strain and it’s something employers should pay attention to.

Parents at Work

Through my work and lived experience I’ve noticed employees with children age 4-11 experience a straining of personal relationships over the summer. These employees (female especially) have the extra load of finding, organising and taking their children to different activities/childcare settings. They do this whilst striving to maintain high standards at work, including maintaining availability to direct reports, peers and bosses. This is difficult and what gets squeezed or lost altogether is their ‘me time’ and ‘we time’. (Me Time = self care activities. We Time = nurturing their relationship with their spouse/partner/significant other.

We’re not taking holidays – but we must

It’s not just employees without children who are at risk of fraying relationships.  New findings by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) show 39 per cent of UK staff have taken less paid time off since the pandemic began. Many people are choosing not to take their usual summer break from work because they can’t holiday where they’d like. Somewhat bizarrely, it was easier to get away last summer pre-vaccine than it is this summer.

As hybrid working becomes the norm after the summer, we want our colleagues to return to the office feeling rested. So what should business leaders do to help parents/carers who are under strain? And to encourage people to take leave?

Three ideas to support employees with caring responsibilities – and include those without

  • Take leave yourself and, when you come back, talk about how good you feel for doing it – humans are social creatures heavily influenced by the behaviour of others.
  • Gift parents an extra day off in September to spend with spouse/partner/significant other – and throw in a restaurant voucher.
  • Offer non-parents a day off to support a friend or relative with caring responsibilities and gift them a voucher to treat the people they’ll be with.

Would like you like more ideas to support strained colleagues? We have plenty more practical suggestions up our sleeves.

Coaching conversations for all

You might also want to make a stand-alone coaching conversation available to anyone who would like one. We’ve been doing this with some of our clients whose people we coach when they are preparing for, and returning from, any type of extended leave. Life continues to be very trying for many – not just parents – and having the space to think through challenges and worries about work and/or home has been a real tonic for them.

If you like the sound of this do drop me a line jc@talentkeepers.co.uk or call the office 01727 856169.

* With thanks to the YouTube algorithm – Robert’s Ted Talk was offered up to me after playing a Yoga with Adrienne film on YouTube. Stretching + learning before breakfast = perfect.

Coming Back with Confidence – Mini Masterclass

How can I show I’m still committed? How do I raise my visibility? Can I do a good job and progress my career and still have time for family life? These are three of the challenges we regularly hear from coachees coming back from maternity and other types of extended leave. They work in organisations such as BlackRock, Federated Hermes, ITV and CIPD.

In this 60 minute online mini masterclass we share practical tips; bring the stories of real returners and answer your peoples’ specific challenges. It’s designed to help your colleagues make a confident comeback.

What’s in it for your people?

  • The opportunity to put questions to a skilled comeback coach.
  • 5 ways to develop a positive, confident mindset
  • How to strategically raise visibility and rebuild relationships
  • Effective ways to pitch for flexible working
  • 5 ways to prepare for a smooth return
  • Copy of CAREER FUEL for professional impact and progression written by Jessica Chivers, author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work.

What do our clients and participants say about it?


Contact us about supporting your returning colleagues

Got a question about this session or supporting colleagues taking maternity and other long leaves? E-mail Jessica jc@talentkeepers.co.uk or call us now on 01727 856169.

Shared Parental Leave – What do Business Leaders Think?

We thank Liz Wright, a past coachee and Risk Assurance Partner at the global tax and audit firm RSM for this personal perspective on Shared Parental Leave.

I’ve long been a fan of all things Scandi, the brooding crime dramas, the pastries and their general approach to life. They have a different view on parenting from the common practice of leaving babies in prams outside shops, the focus of pre-school on interactive play and the success of their education system.


Shared Parental Leave in Scandinavia

In Sweden, parents are entitled to share 480 days paid parental leave per child. Each parent can transfer part of their leave to the other parent if they wish. Ninety days are, however, reserved for each parent and cannot be transferred to the other parent.

How do the Danes do it? Parents receive 52 weeks of paid parental leave and can split 32 weeks of leave however they wish.

And in Norway, parents can choose to take a combined total of 49 weeks at 100% pay or 59 weeks at 80% pay. In the case of 49 weeks this breaks down as 3 weeks pre-birth for the mother; 15 weeks non-transferable maternity quota; 15 weeks non-transferable paternity quota and then 16 weeks that can be shared as the parents see fit.

Although I can’t implement all of these nordic changes in my team (much as I would like, a morning Fika break for cake anyone?), one thing I have done is champion Shared Parental Leave.

Six fathers take SPL in Liz’s Team

I currently manage a large team of around 50 people, the vast majority of which are in their 20’s and 30’s. During the Pandemic we experienced something of a baby boom and over that period around six team members have utilised the option of shared parental leave taking between 6 weeks and 6 months leave.

Now, I am not a parent myself but I strongly believe in the power of shared parental leave for a number of reasons I have advocated to my team to utilise this option. In most cases, this was a simple as explaining the firms policy and how they could adopt it for their personal circumstances. For some, it was posing the question, ‘why would you not take it?’.

The benefits of men taking SPL to RSM

I perceive the benefits of shared parental leave for the team to be:

  • A reduced impact on women’s careers. Parenting is not just a female responsibility. As a woman navigating a corporate career, I was aware of the perceived impact that career breaks can take on a developing career. By making it common place for all team members to take this option, it reduces the potential impact on female careers.
  • Increasing equality. During the pandemic, for many of my friends, family and co-workers, the brunt of the emotional load of home management, childcare and home schooling was felt most acutely by women. By normalising a man’s role in childcare, it helps support female equality and shares the load.
  • Less stressed new fathers. Taking time out of the business allows men to catch their breath and be present for their families in a way that normal life does not always cater for. Although working from home has allowed people to be more physically present, the parental leave also helps them to be mentally and emotionally present for their families.
  • More fresh perspectives. Staff return with a new perspective and consideration of how to manage competing demands on their time. Its often been said that working mothers are the most efficient people in the workforce and I’m hoping that the same will be true for working fathers.
  • Increased retention. Time will tell, but I’m expecting to see increased retention from those staff who have taken shared parental leave. It has potentially reduced their stress levels in the first few months and allowed them to return engaged in the team and the firm for supporting them through this period.

Levelling the playing field

Levelling the playing field for all my team and creating meaningful and sustainable roles and career paths is what drives me on a daily basis. In professional services, its important that we can support people through the various challenges of life and fit our approach to meet their needs and expectations. That’s why I’m embedding regular shared parental leave for all. It’s just one way of helping drive equality but one I am really proud that we have done.

Comeback coaching for returning colleagues

Executive comeback coaching helps employees identify and address any concerns or issues they have about their return to work. Executive coaching also helps employees better understand their value and potential to the business and, through a personal action plan, supports their transition back to work. Find out more.

Got a question about supporting colleagues taking maternity leave? E-mail Jessica jc@talentkeepers.co.uk or find us on Twitter and Instagram @talentkeepersuk.


By day, Liz is a Risk Assurance Partner at RSM delivering Internal Audit services in new and innovative ways. She is recognised as an Inspirational People Leader by her peers. By night, Liz indulges her passion for all things to do with leadership and management through her Youtube channel.


Why are we fans of walking coaching meetings?

We’ve been advocates of walking coaching meetings for many years. Research tells us that outdoor walking leads to more ‘creative’ thinking[1] than sitting inside or being pushed in a wheelchair outdoors. And the boost in divergent thinking lingers when you return to your (indoor) desk. For many of our coachees who are returning to work from maternity or shared parental leave it’s a welcome break from the desk – they’re just not used to the physical inactivity!


Throughout 2020 and into this year we’ve constantly asked ourselves “how can we make coaching time as good, if not better, than it was when we met in person?” We’ve also held onto the question “What would it take to be the bright spot in our coachees’ diaries?” Because let’s face it, back to back virtual meetings have been painful and no matter how good the coaching, another screen meeting chips away at our coachees’ energy.

But I don’t have a ‘creative job’

‘Creative thinking’ is ‘divergent thinking’ or better labelled as ‘problem-solving.’ Divergent thinking is simply thinking that goes in different directions. Most of us need to solve problems in our work and home life and if we’re able to think of new and different options for doing so, we give ourselves a better chance of finding a decent solution. Of course coaching time is essentially problem-solving time.

What does the research say?

An oft used way to test divergent thinking is the Guilford Alternate Uses Test (GAU). If you’ve ever been asked to come up with as many uses for a brick as you can in a minute, that’s the GAU test.

In Experiment 1, while seated and then when walking on a treadmill, participants did the GAU test of and walking increased 81% of participants’ creativity. In Experiment 2, participants completed the GAU when seated and then walking, when walking and then seated, or when seated twice. Again, walking led to higher GAU scores. Moreover, when seated after walking, participants exhibited a residual creative boost. In another experiment, participants sat inside, walked on a treadmill inside, walked outside, or were rolled outside in a wheelchair. The result? Walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies.

But don’t you need to write things down in coaching?

When working remotely we invite our coachees to walk outdoors whilst we remain at our desks. We take notes, including agreed action points, and send a photograph to our coachees afterwards.

When we’re coaching in person we factor in time at the end to record actions. This might be back in the office or on a park bench. We always have a hardback notebook with us to take notes on the go.

The exception to this is when we’re doing a Strengths Profile debrief. We like to make this a tactile experience by inviting our coachees to hold their strengths in their hands (chunky cards with images and definition of the strength printed on it).

What if it’s raining?

We’re guided by our coachees’ preferences and if they want to walk in the rain we have some beautiful umbrellas. Most of our coaching meetings are stationary but the option is always there to put them in motion.

Comeback coaching for returning colleagues

Executive comeback coaching helps employees identify and address any concerns or issues they have about their return to work. Executive coaching also helps employees better understand their value and potential to the business and, through a personal action plan, supports their transition back to work. Find out more.

Got a question about supporting colleagues taking maternity leave? E-mail Jessica jc@talentkeepers.co.uk or find us on Twitter and Instagram @talentkeepersuk.

[1] Oprezzo, M. and Schwartz, D.L. Give your ideas some legs. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition (2014) Vol. 40, No. 4, 1142–1152

The mental health benefits of keeping in touch on maternity leave

It is well documented that having a baby is stressful. Heart-expanding and magical and incredible but also brain-bendingly exhausting too. Until you become a parent – in fact until you become a mother – it’s nigh on impossible to grasp the transformation you will go through.

Overnight, you go from being an independent woman, living your best life, free to pursue your dreams and hobbies, to being a one-woman milk machine, rarely seeing the shower and developing an obsession with sleep that’s borderline worrying.

We’re all about supporting people prior to, during and after long leave at The Talent Keeper Specialists, so for this article we’ve dug a little deeper to discover: what is it about maternity leave in particular that is so challenging? How can keeping in touch with work mitigate its effects?

Our research shows the following three things are key to mental wellbeing and they’re things we can keenly miss when we’re away from work:

  • Connection
  • Stimulation
  • Control

While you are utterly absorbed by the demands and needs of your baby, there’s a side of your brain that isn’t being stimulated in the same way that it is used to. Career aspirations, skills and specialities are on hold and for a time, that’s fine. But temporarily losing that sense of making a contribution, or the financial, social or intellectual satisfaction that comes from work, can take its toll. You’re craving control but you don’t know where to find it. At the same time, your core values come sharply into focus.


Why should bosses care about maternal mental health?

If you consider that half the workforce is female, and 80% of these employees are parents or going to become parents, it’s crucially important that we look after them for the relatively short time they are on maternity leave.

The statistics on PND are humbling and relevant to all employers. Postnatal depression affects one in ten mothers. According to a survey by the RCOG, 81% of women in a survey of 2,300 had experienced at least one episode of a mental health problem during or after their pregnancy. Low mood was experienced by more than two thirds of these women, anxiety by around half and depression by just over a third. But with only 7% of the women who reported experiencing a maternal mental health condition being referred to specialist care, it’s clear that employers should be playing a more active role in helping their valued members of staff.

Sybille Raphael, Head of Legal Advice Services at Working Families, also warns that it could be unlawful sex discrimination if employers don’t keep in reasonable contact with the staff on leave. She says that keeping in touch, ideally by telephone rather than email, makes it easier for employees to explain their worries and prepare for their return to work.

You’ll want to be sure you played your part. It could well be the difference between retaining a valued member of staff or losing her.


 CONNECTION: How can a boss help their employee on maternity leave?

Reach out. We all know that ‘it takes a village to raise a baby.’ By actively including and communicating with your member of staff during her maternity leave, you’ll be playing your role in keeping her connected and confident. Ensure she is included in both formal and informal office news and updates. She can choose to ignore these, but it’s more likely she’ll be reassured that she is still part of the world of work and know that it is not moving ahead without her. She’ll feel that pull back to her previous life and feel connected. You don’t need to ask her to engage actively, but if she has opened the email, it has been worth it. You will have made that day at home with her baby, a better one.

It’s also so important to recognise that everyone’s experience of motherhood is utterly different. Some will breeze through it with healthy, happy babies and plenty of support. Others will be hit with unpredictable hormonal changes and depression. Others will be raising poorly babies who cry non-stop and never seem to sleep or settle, with no help from family or otherwise. Keeping in touch on a human-to-human level will help you know how and when to support your cherished member of staff.


STIMULATION: The impact of loneliness on new mums

Loneliness creeps up on new mothers. Even though mums are never truly alone (and are probably craving real solitude) long days without adult company can be gruelling. Once the initial flurry of visitors, cards and presents is over and their partner returns to work, the real labour of parenthood begins. Not only are they physically alone, they are emotionally carrying the enormous burden of responsibility for their tiny little bundle.

It can be boring too, churning through the relentless cycle of feeding, changing, napping, interspersed with moments of true joy and utter delight. Even though they adore this little human, it is overwhelmingly dull at times and they will be craving adult conversation. They are likely to feel sad that they are missing out on life with colleagues and friends. It’s also incredibly common to resent their partner for escaping off to the office (even if that is only upstairs at the moment).

This is where KIT days are so valuable. For a new mother to attend a KIT day, she will have had to redress the balance of power at home, and to have trusted another individual to care for her baby. This is huge the first time around. She’ll arrive at work and plunge into her old life for a day. More often than not she will find that to be a relief, a re-engaging process that allows her to remember her professional self and enjoy the intellectual and social stimulation that goes alongside work.


CONTROL: Keeping in touch helps your employee feel less anxious

Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government  says that companies must work harder to keep in touch with women on maternity leave. He says that women find it harder to maintain the momentum of their careers on their return to work, especially when male colleagues happily step in and ‘land grab’ the best clients. He made the point that employers wrongfully assume women don’t want to be in touch with projects or clients during their leave. All this adds to the stress load felt by women who fear losing control or status during their absence. By ensuring they have the option to attend key client meetings or performance reviews on KIT days, they’ll maintain their hard-earned status.


What if you have postnatal depression? How do you tell your boss?

Of course, no-one is obliged to share their PND. But if you feel strong enough to do so, it can help. The NCT advises women to keep in touch with their colleagues and boss if they are suffering, to help you feel less anxious about returning to work. PND is so common that it is highly likely your boss will have either first-hand experience of it themselves, or helped others cope with it on their return to work. Most companies have excellent mental health procedures in place; after all, no-one wants to lose great employees.


Returning to work can be a relief

Going back to work really can be a break from the emotional and physical labour that looking after a baby entails. You are afforded the freedom to focus, uninterrupted on an intellectual challenge. You get to talk to your ‘work family’ without the constant background narrative in your mind worrying about the next feed or sleep. You get to progress your career and satisfy that urge to excel. Heck, you even get to drink a cup of coffee without having to reheat it three times!


Supporting employees’ return to work

Executive comeback coaching helps employees identify and address any concerns or issues they have about their return to work. Executive Coaching also helps employees better understand their value and potential to the business and, through a personal action plan, supports their transition back to work. Find out more.

Got a question about supporting colleagues taking maternity leave? E-mail jc@talentkeepers.co.uk or find us on Twitter and Instagram @talentkeepersuk.

APPG Women & Work Report 2017

Are you struggling to find the right people for the vacancies in your organisation? Is gender diversity on your agenda? Last year we hosted a ‘hidden talent action tank’ to help employers tap into the increasing number of skilled women who want to come back to work after an extended break. This week, we attended the launch of the ‘Women and Work’[1] report from a cross-party group of MPs and bring you the highlights from an employer perspective. 


The report makes nine recommendations, three are aimed at employers: 

5. Every workplace with 250 or more employees should have a carers policy detailing organisational support available for those with caring responsibilities. 

This could be cumbersome and unnecessary. In our experience what really matters to employees is being trusted to get the job done and being trusted to use flexible working in a way that works for the organisation and meets family needs. Line manager behaviours are the lynchpin.

6. Every workplace with 250 or more employees should consider putting in place paid returner programmes or returnships with guaranteed training, advice and support. 

Returner programmes can be a useful tool but they‘re not right for every organisation. See “What is a returner programme?” for the key questions to decide if a returner programme is likely to fulfill your talent pool shortages. Direct recruitment from the hidden talent pool using ‘reverse headhunters’ such as Inclusivity may be a faster, better value option.

8. Employers should promote best practice through a flexible working kitemark with official accreditation and assessment to increase flexible working visibility and actively encourage the uptake of flexible working.

Many employers we talk to are struggling to recruit women into specialist, skilled and senior roles. Employees who have built social capital in their current organisation and have crafted a flexible working arrangement that works for them are reluctant to move. We discussed the problem of ‘trapped talent’ and flexible hiring on BBC Breakfast – watch the clip here. We believe employers will benefit from advertising roles as flexible and support the APPG’s recommendation.


Shared Parental Leave

Have you found it tricky to implement Shared Parental Leave in your organisation? You’re not alone. 77% of respondents to a CIPD survey said they had to access external advice to understand the process. This headache has been for little gain as another survey of 200 employers found only 1% of men had  taken the opportunity to share their partner’s parental leave.

The view at The Talent Keeper Specialists is that SPL was introduced to normalise men caring for their children and lessen the impact of having children on women’s careers. We believe the best way to achieve this – and make it easier for employers – is to divide parental leave into three chunks: one for each parent on a ‘use it or lose it basis’ and a third for either parent.



67% of mothers in work and 64% of those not working said the high cost of childcare is a barrier to taking on more employment. [2] The Government is increasing free childcare to 30 hours from September 2017 for working families, to address this.

Our view is that employers who are experiencing talent shortages could significantly widen their candidate pool by being open to flexible working, and making this clear to candidates at the point of hiring. Read “Employers benefit by ‘talking flex’ when hiring.”


Supporting maternity returners

You know the ‘cost’ of replacing an employee is more than just the recruitment fees. Keeping and fueling existing valued and talented employees should be a priority for business. The Equality and Human Rights Commission launched the ‘Working Forward’ campaign last autumn to make UK workplaces the best they can be for pregnant and new mother employees.

We run maternity comeback workshops for returning employees and a separate session for line managers. Find out more: https://www.talentkeepers.co.uk/shape-the-landscape/


About The Talent Keeper Specialists

Since we started in 2012 The Talent Keeper Specialists have delivered on time, within budget and to glowing feedback from our clients and their employees at places such as Boots, Anglia Ruskin University, The Law Society of Scotland, The Institute of Chartered Accountants England & Wales, Boots, Enfield Borough Council, Oxfam, Channel 4, PayPal, Carillion and Twinings. We work with employers to shape inclusive workplace cultures and support the transitions of returning employees and women stepping into leadership roles. Watch our 2 minute film here: https://vimeo.com/187137094.


[1]  The Women and Work APPG was formed at the beginning of 2016 in response to the increasing public and political focus on the role of women in the workforce, and the acknowledgement from Government that the UK economy underuses women’s talents and misses out on a “huge economic prize”.

[2] Careers and cares: childcare and maternal labour supply, Resolution Foundation and Mumsnet, 2014

Bringing talent back – O2’s story

Over the summer we brought HR, D&I, Talent and Resourcing practitioners from organisations including Whitbread, EY, Accenture and Cap Gemini together to explore ways to uncover and bring back ‘hidden talent’. Thank you to Avanade & Accenture for hosting us and to O2 for sharing their story.

What and why a ‘hidden talent action tank’?

When Jessica Chivers wrote the book, Mothers Work! she discovered vast numbers of women were returning to jobs not commensurate with their skills and abilities (all tied up with the flexible working/presenteeism problem that pervades UK workplaces). Fast forward to 2013 we piloted a workshop for the Chartered Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales aimed at supporting the return to work of members on maternity leave. What actually happened was a full room of women, the majority of whom were not on maternity leave, but those hungry to get back to work after 2-10 years out. They were struggling because the gap on the CV meant they were being overlooked – hence their pouncing on a workshop about getting back to work.

Since then we’ve run swathes of free maternity comeback and career comeback workshops (which participants love and have travelled 100s of miles to attend) but they don’t address the heart of the problem – the need for Heads of Resourcing, Talent and D&I practitioners to see the problem and commit to action. There’s just too much talent going to waste and this is a problem on many levels, but commercially speaking it doesn’t make sense when there’s still a ‘war for talent.’ Hence the ‘hidden talent action tank’ to drive change through peer idea exchange, including a spotlight on returner programmes as one tool for bringing talent back.

O2’s returner programme

Andrea Jones, resourcing lead at O2, shared the telecoms giant’s experience of running a returner programme in the operations area of the business.

Many of us drew breath when she shared research stating most line managers would prefer to hire someone with less experience than a candidate who had been out of work for more than six months. “Six months!?” That’s less than most maternity leaves. The good news is the O2 scheme was hailed a rip-roaring success and The Talent Keeper Specialists expects more demand in 2016-2018 for returner programmes.

Key stats that drove O2’s decision to run a returner programme

  • Managers would rather hire less qualified candidate over one who has been out for over 6 months
  • Gender diverse companies are 45% more likely to improve market share, achieve 53% higher returns on equity, and 70% more likely to capture new markets
  • For every 10% increase in gender diversity in the senior executive team, there is a 3.5% increase in financial performance.
  • 42% of millennial dads feel ‘burnt out’ most or all of the time
  • 40% of working women earn more than their partners
  • 1 million now work past 65
  • Only 17% of over 50s favour traditional retirement pattern as majority want to ease into retirement via part-time work
  • 50-60% of women returners want to work part-time
  • 34%-48% of women would like to work part-time
  • 27% of the UK workforce work part time. Of those, 74% are women
  • 44% of Generation Y rate work-life balance as a key driver in their career


Ten golden nuggets for improving gender balance

We grappled with five questions in the ‘action’ part of the morning. People spoke with passion, others listened intently. Ten golden nuggets emerged for improving gender balance from the talent, HR, D&I and resourcing practitioners at the Action Tank:

  • 1) Confront lazy hiring – value finding the best talent over quick recruitment. This might mean looking in different places.
  • 2) Look beyond a candidate’s last role – many women’s careers aren’t linear and strengths are transferrable.
  • 3) Create more open job descriptions – countless capable candidates (internal and external) rule themselves out at the application stage because they don’t tick every box.
  • 4) See returners as assets – they’re fresh, motivated and hungry to put their minds to work. Returner programmes tap into ‘hidden talent’ and are a good news story for your business.
  • 5) Promote flexible working in job descriptions – and offer flexibility for employees already in business, not only after returning from maternity leave.
  • 6) Use gender balanced panels to make hiring decisions to reduce unconscious bias and avoid line managers hiring in their own image.
  • 7) Experiment with new recruiting processes, such as games, to assess people’s potential rather than relying on CVs.
  • 8) Focus on opening middle managers’ minds to how flexible and part-time working can fuel productivity and performance, and be of benefit to them personally.
  • 9) Showcase senior role models who work flexibly, recruit diverse teams and have high employee engagement scores – these are the people you want other managers to emulate.
  • 10) Don’t overlook introverts or make assumptions – actively encourage ‘quieter’ people (who may not talk openly about career aspirations)  to apply for promotions and stretch assignments.


6 pillars of success/what O2 learned:

  • Target a specific area of the business where there’s a need/desire to recruit more women.
  • Have clear benefits, timelines and costs for setting up – make it easy for the business to say yes
  • Ask for referrals to the programme from employees and partners (this went down ‘really well’ at O2)
  • Assessment centre to be a two-way process and the agenda to kept ‘light’ with lots of networking and senior leadership team to attend
  • Be flexible about how the roles work
  • Resourcing and the Diversity & Inclusion teams to work in partnership

A returner programme for your organisation?

If bringing talent back is on your agenda or you’re struggling to meet gender diversity targets, save yourself time, hassle and budget by meeting with us.

Contact Jessica Chivers to arrange a conversation: jc@talentkeepers.co.uk | @TalentKeepers on Twitter and Instagram and find us on LinkedIn  | +44 (0)1727 856169