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The Dos and Don’ts of Managing Employees Pre- and Post-Maternity Leave

July 20, 2018, by Corina Sibley | Work Environment and Policies

You have an employee going off on maternity leave in the next few months and have noticed some performance issues in the past few months.  You figure that your employee will be on an extended leave of absence at any rate and you don’t want to create any additional stress or issues for the employee so you let the issues slide.  Your employee goes off on leave and you have hired a temporary replacement in the meantime.  Time passes and the team is working well together and you love the temporary replacement; great performance, attitude and fits in well with the team.  You haven’t heard back from your employee at all about her return to work date.  Time continues to pass and now there is only 1 month left until your employee is due to return.  But by this time, you’re not sure how the employee will fit in the team.  Besides that, you had performance issues with her in the time leading up to her leave that you have not addressed.  Maybe it would be better if your employee didn’t come back?

I call this approach the ostrich approach (burying your head in the sand).  The bottom line is employees who are approaching a leave of absence or on a leave of absence need to be treated in an equitable manner to their peers. 


  • Ensure that your employee has all the resources they need to continue to perform at their best given their current circumstances.  That means continue to coach them and provide them with performance feedback, regardless of their impending leave. 
  • Work with the employee’s medical practitioner if there are medical issues that need to be accommodated at work. 
  • Document the employee’s leave of absence in writing, including any expectations around continued benefits and whether there is expectation of employee needing to pay for continued benefits during the leave if there is a co-pay component, the return to work date and expectations around transition plan.
  • Ask the employee the best method of communicating with them while they are on leave, and what in particular they would like to be kept abreast of while they are away. 
  • Keep the lines of communication open with the employee during the leave of absence by letting them know about major events at work, inviting them to any social events and giving them an option to participate if they so desire, etc.
  • Contact the employee about 6 – 8 weeks before the expected return to work date to begin talking about the transition back to work and what support the employee may need for a successful transition.
  • Consider your employee in any organizational decisions that you are making in the department in which she belongs as if she were still there.


  • Treat your employee with kid gloves, refraining from giving much needed coaching and performance advice.  The employee will sense it and behave in a way that is counter-productive to what you are intending to do.
  • Allow the entire leave of absence period to go by without having reached out and communicated periodically with your employee to touch base. 
  • Assume your employee is or is not coming back and start acting that way.


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