Maternal Mental Health Month

May is Maternal Mental Health Month and with great advances being made in practice to reduce gender imbalance and offer a more flexible way of working, we wanted to take a moment to consider what more can be done in the workplace to support accountants who are also mothers.

When women choose the field of accountancy as a professional career, for the most part they won’t have been looking ahead to later in life when they might choose to start a family and thinking about whether they will be able to juggle the many demands of a professional career in practice alongside their future commitments as a mother.

But fast forward to that moment in time when a female accountant is on maternity leave and wondering how on earth she is going to make her new responsibilities work alongside the career she has worked so hard to build and you’ll see that our industry still has much work to do to support maternal mental health in our workplace.

So if you’re a firm that is committed to creating an equitable and supportive working environment that welcomes a truly diverse spectrum of accountants and wants to nurture and retain this workforce, here’s a few practical ideas about what you can do to make the juggle easier for mums in the workplace. 

1. Get clued up on what you need to do as a bare minimum to support mums in the workplace (particularly in their pregnancy and when they return to work from maternity leave.)

Whether it’s maternity pay (the minimum and how you can enhance it), health and safety and risk assessments, or the amount of maternity leave a women is entitled to make, there’s a lot to know and as always we’d recommend that you start by taking a look at the relevant pages on ACAS.

Once you’ve read and understood your legal obligations you can start to formulate what more you might consider offering expectant, new and existing mothers on your payroll. And one step beyond formulating your plan is making sure it’s documented clearly and readily accessible to your workforce in the format of HR policies and procedures, a staff handbook or on your staff intranet.

2. Ask your workforce what helps.

Employers often forget that they have the potential to glean masses of information just by asking the right questions of the people they already employ. Survey your staff at regular intervals and ask questions at return to work meetings or exit interviews. If they are a working mum what elements of employment relating to flexibility and support did they find helpful and what did they find was missing?

3. Take a look at your employee value benefits.

Whether you have a fixed list of what you offer your staff or they can pick and choose from a list of flexible benefits, consider whether you could offer more to support the health and wellbeing of your staff who are parents or carers. Childcare vouchers, life assurance, emergency leave or flexible or hybrid working all makes a difference and will make your employee value proposition much more attractive to parents.

4. Make sure your approach is up to date. 

In this article we’re specifically referring to maternal mental health but remember that modern families are very different today and your workplace offering needs to be striving to make a career in accountancy accessible for same sex families, single parent families, families who have adopted, used surrogates and more, so ensure that the wording of your offerings is up to date and doesn’t exclude anyone.

5. Don’t forget the fine detail. 

Championing the maternal mental health of your staff involves more than just writing policies. You’ll need to boost what you say you offer on paper with material actions that your employees can see, hear and touch.

Make sure you have a space at work where new mums can breastfeed or pump.

Ensure that your workforce who are on maternity leave still receive regular updates and staff newsletters and are included at social events.

Lead by example and ensure that junior staff can see that mothers are represented in senior leadership teams. Don’t let your firm install a glass ceiling.

‘At Public Practice Recruitment Ltd we encounter some truly first-class candidates who successfully juggle the demands of family life alongside thriving careers. And it’s always our opinion that a flexible employer-employee relationship works in the favour of both parties. A happy, motivated and supported mother is usually a committed, productive and loyal member of the workforce so it’s in all of our interest to support mothers in the workplace.’

Garry Howling, MD

For support in improving the health and well-being of mothers in your employ, or adapting your employee value proposition to make your firm a more attractive place to work for mothers, get in touch with the experts today. We’re champions of maternal mental health and we’d be delighted to share our knowledge with you.

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