Retaining Working Mothers in Japan – Part 4: Practical Logistics

In this fourth and final part of the series, Retaining Working Mothers in Japan series (Introduction, Communication during Childcare Leave, Smooth On-ramping for Working Mothers, Normalising Flexibility) we look at some of the practical considerations when mothers of young children are on your team.

Facilities for nursing mothers

Is your returning mother still nursing? What do you mean you are too embarrassed to ask?

Many companies include provisions for 15 min breaks in their work rules for nursing/ pumping but few have actually considered the implications of this! You need to check with your employee and provide either a nursing or pumping room. Mothers request:

  1. a lockable door and a do not disturb sign
  2. blinds or a way to make private
  3. a power outlet so electric pumps can be used
  4. Access to a clean fridge
  5. A place to wash/sterilize equipment


“Narashi hoiku”: on-ramping for babies

Understand that most hoikuens expect some kind of “settling in period” in the first month. Therefore, a mother returning in April might not be available full time until after Golden Week. Plan accordingly in terms of assignments and meetings.

Sick babies are inevitable: make a plan

Parents feel terrible when they are called away due to their children’s illness. Most parents would much rather be at work than caring for a sick kid.

The biggest request is that employers are practical and supportive. Giving your employee a hard time about having to suddenly leave does not help the situation in any way. Acknowledge that they need to leave, ask them to update you once they know the situation in terms of how long the child might need to be at home and ask your employee to communicate priorities and requests for support during their absence.

This is a great example of when technology and offsite access is going to help your business run smoothly. In many cases, your employee can keep some projects moving forwards and be in contact during the absence.

It’s also worth letting your employee know about pre-registering with a daycare which will take sick children. First time parents might not be aware of them.


I hope you have found this series useful. Please contact me to share your best practices on how we can create diverse and inclusive workplaces so we can empower women to bring innovation to the office!

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