Moving together through your changing world of home and work

Posted By: Rachael Jordan

29th April 2024

  • Awareness week

2 minute read

Guest blog by Dr. Krystal Wilkinson, Associate Professor, HRM at Manchester Metropolitan University

Becoming a parent or extending your family are significant events in anyone’s life, often having a significant impact on our identities, both personally and at work. This impact can be exacerbated when there are additional challenges on journeys to parenthood, including fertility struggles, loss, trauma or mental illness. Such challenges are actually fairly common, but because they are not often spoken about, people can feel quite isolated and unsure of the help available.

For employers

Support from line managers and colleagues can make a huge difference to individuals who are struggling with the transition to parenthood. It is important to avoid assuming how someone might be feeling, and instead ask how they are. There should be regular check-ins through pregnancy; planning for parental leave (including the form and frequency of contact); and care taken with the return to work. 

If someone discloses that they are struggling, it is important that:

  1. they are listened to
  2. have a say in what happens next
  3. managers (and ideally colleagues) have an understanding of what support is available both within and outside the organisation. 

For employees

If you are currently worried about how to navigate your parenting journey at work, you might find it useful to check out what policies and provisions are in place – either from the HR department, your line manager or any staff networks/forums (i.e. gender or parents and carers). Useful information might be found in policies/guidance around Maternity/Paternity/Adoption/Parenting; Wellbeing at work (including signposting to things like Employee Assistance Programmes); Sickness Absence; Occupational Health; Flexible working, etc.

If you are thinking of disclosing mental health worries or diagnoses at work, you might find it helpful to consider what you are hoping to achieve from the discussion.

Examples may include:

  • just having the issue on your manager's radar
  • explaining absence or a change in performance/behaviour
  • agreeing some adjustment to your work (i.e. location, hours, volume of work or specific tasks)
  • planning a phased return to work
  • or being signposted to specific resources or supports (i.e. Occupational Health).

Sometimes you might not know what support you need, but disclosure can start a dialogue where different adjustments or supports are trialled.

Workplace perinatal mental health: what's next?

It is clear that there is much more to do to get the issue of perinatal mental health on the workplace agenda. At present, perinatal mental health challenges are rarely mentioned in maternity and paternity policies, workplace wellbeing discussions, or line manager training, despite mental illness affecting 1 in 5 mums, and 1 in 10 dads and partners, in this period. 

We’re hoping to change that.

More information

To learn more about perinatal mental health in the workplace, see the following resources from MMHA members:

You can find Dr. Krystal Wilkinson on LinkedIn and X.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance would like to thank Krystal for taking the time to write this blog to mark day 2 of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 and for all she does to make workplaces more psychologically safe environments for new and expectant parents.

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