A quarter (24 per cent) of women on maternity leave are not offered the same training opportunities as their colleagues, affecting their readiness to return to work, according to new research from AVADO, digitally-powered professional learning provider.
During maternity leave, an employee and employer can agree to have up to ten ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days, which can be used for a range of work, including training. Yet, just one in ten women (16 per cent) were given the option to use one or more of their KIT days for training. This is despite, 72 per cent of women seeing training as one of the key ways to help mums successfully head back to work after having a family.
Almost a third of women (32 per cent) who’ve been on maternity leave in the past three years say they’d have felt more prepared to return to the workforce if they’d had the option to do some training. In addition, one in three (29 per cent) would have felt better connected with their team members and for a fifth (24 per cent), training would have allowed them to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their industry.
The research reveals that women on maternity leave are looking to bolster their skills in specific areas. Leadership and IT skills came top of their training list (16 per cent), followed by people management (15 per cent) and communication skills (14 per cent). Four fifths (81 per cent) also say they’d like the flexibility to undertake training online so they can complete courses from their own home and in their own time.
With an estimated half a million women currently taking a career break, businesses risk losing out on a huge swath of the talent pool if women don’t feel appreciated. Yet a fifth (20 per cent) of women feel overlooked by their employer during maternity leave and a further 18 per cent feel undervalued and as if they’d never worked at the company.
For employers, the research also reveals it’s all about offering women a choice – while many are keen to stay connected to the workforce, some would prefer not to. A third (32 per cent) value the opportunity to use their maternity leave to bond and care for their child and almost half (46 per cent) had no interest in acquiring new skills during this time.
Amy Crawford, managing director of AVADO says, ‘Maternity leave is a delicate time for employees and employers which is why it’s essential that both parties openly talk about how best to navigate this period of change. While some women want to take time away from work to focus on their family, many feel abandoned and like a forgotten resource the minute they walk out the door.
‘If businesses want to make sure they’re retaining the best talent, they need to make sure women feel valued while they’re away. One way is by offering new mothers training opportunities while they’re taking a career break and with the advent of online learning, women have the flexibility to complete courses from their own home and in their own time.
‘The impact of training on confidence levels can’t be underestimated. Women tell us that during maternity leave they lose confidence in their working ability. Training not only helps them to feel more prepared to return to the workforce, safe in the knowledge that they are better qualified, but businesses also benefit from new skills.’