Retaining Working Mothers in Japan – Part 2: Smooth on-ramping

In Part 2 of the 4 part series on Retaining Working Mothers in Japan (Introduction and Part 1: Communication during Childcare Leave), I share some current best practices to make the on-ramping after childcare leave a little smoother:

1. On-board like a new hire

If your employee has taken 1 year leave (which may be extended to 2 years in the future) then it is likely that your policies and personnel have changed.

If there are any on-boarding trainings for new hires going on, invite your returning parent to them. Explain that this is the best way to reacquaint them with the business.

For example, one returning mother found out several weeks into the job that the entire accounting and payroll system had changed. Going through the on-boarding training as a new hire would have given her the knowledge in a fraction of the time and cost it to took the Director to train her OTJ.

2. Welcome them back

As you would with a new hire, can you make them feel excited about coming to work for you? Flowers, a card, balloons, a team lunch, personal welcome back emails, announcements in the company newsletters were all ways that clients have made returning mothers feel included. Returning to work after childcare leave can be quite an emotional time. so feeling that the people around you want you to be there is huge!

3. Be prepared

Be prepared for and supportive of sudden absences. Returning to work after childcare leave should be considered a marathon not a sprint. Babies get sick at daycare and sometimes a lot in the first six months! The title of a manga which was made into a TBS drama in 2015 captures this perfectly: “37.5℃の涙” (The tears of 37.5 degrees). First time parents are especially worried with young babies. Try not to add to their stress of both missing work and having a sick kid.

4. Create parenting networks

Encourage parents to network – getting together to share working parenting hacks has a double bonus. Your employee gets new solutions to problems and is increasing cross-functional communication, raising the visibility of your team in the organization.

Some Client companies support brown bag lunches for working parents around specific themes like “how to get your kids out of the house on time”, “quick bentos for gakudo in the school holidays”,”time management”, “sharing and outsourcing housework”, “keeping you and your family healthy” etc.

If your company does have enough working parents to support this, there are online discussion groups and meet ups available too.


What works for you?

What is your company doing to make on-ramping smoother for all involved? Share your ideas in the comments.

Coming up in the four part series on Retaining Working Mothers in Japan (Introduction and Part 1: Communication during Childcare Leave), Part 3: Normalising Flexibility.

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