Return to work after baby break: career killer parental leave?

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A parents' survey by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs surprised and shocked me: Four out of ten working women regret having taken parental leave. Because, the baby break hurts the career, say the interviewees. And now?

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Here writes for you:


Maike Dietz 97Maike Dietz is a career coach and HR consultant and has been with Daimler for more than 7 years.


Before parental leave: Plan ahead

The questions that arise: Confident male top decisionmakers the female colleagues in the return to the workplace? Or do women not have the necessary bite to get back into work?

Few women worry in advance about how the re-entry could succeed - a mistake. Because so passes important time, in the Company and expectant mothers could work together on a re-entry solution.

In any case keep contacts!

It is sensible to define the duration of the parental leave in each case and how to keep contact.

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If an important executive is lacking, the company needs to find an adequate replacement in the short term, which can assume the position interimistically - and resign as soon as the employee returns from parental leave.

A problem especially for executives

A problem that mainly affects leadership positions. Because most senior executives are not willing to take a temporary job with regard to their own career. On the other hand, the prospect of success is promising:

  • Is there, for example, a technically well-versed colleague, who can intervene in the deputy?
  • Or can certain tasks be distributed among several employees?
  • Can a part-time force be temporarily suspended for the rest?
  • And how do you keep in contact despite your absence?

For many women, the maternity leave becomes a career killer - especially for executives who are difficult to replace. It does not have to be this: how do you ensure your job despite your absence?

During parental leave: show presence and develop constantly

Only the few women, like Federal Minister of the Family Kristina Schröder, return to their jobs ten weeks after birth; more than half remain two years or longer in parental leave.

It is therefore essential for women to maintain intensive contact with colleagues and supervisors - whether by telephone, per eMail or personally is rather secondary, important is the regularity of contacts!

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How do you stay in conversation?

In practice, for example, a patent system has proven successful, in which expectant mothers maintain contact with the company via a colleague and vice versa.

Also a good tip: use the time out for further training or learn an additional language; Here, too, the employer could provide assistance and, for example, offer programs or financial support.

At the end of parental leave: Prepare the entry well

If the return is imminent, an open discussion including a detailed “induction plan” is advisable:

  • What changes have now occurred in the company or in the position?
  • How can working times be made more flexible?
  • Where does leadership need support and how can it look like?
  • Is there perhaps even an enterprise-internal care program for (small) children?

 What to do when the job is gone?

It is also important to address unpleasant topics at an early stage: If the previous job was assigned elsewhere, for example, concepts such as a “dual leadership” (eg with two part-time managers) could also be discussed.

Here, above all, companies should rethink and individual alternatives should be considered if they want to keep their female executives in the long term.

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  1. Marie-Luise Mähler

    Why should managers not be ready to step in as an interim? Isn't it more the case that fixed-term contracts at all levels are a big issue in the age of labor market flexibility and that interim managers are no longer that unusual? I think I read this in the PR Report at least last year ...

    • Simone Janson

      I think the interim activity still has the reputation of being a second-choice job. That frightens many. The fact that temporary activities are increasingly normal, changes only slowly: this will take a while to reach the point. Just like with the journalism students, who would like to work for print, but even read only online: the image is important.

  2. Silke

    4 out of 10 women, an… interesting number. I am curious to see when such numbers will also be available for fathers.

    • Simone Janson

      Hi Silke,

      I think the other way around is a shoe: just because the number for fathers would tend against 100%, such numbers are not collected at all. Unfortunately.

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