A high number of mothers who return to work quit after one year. Coaching can, say its fans, cut this fall-out rate.
The changing patterns of family life have brought fresh challenges for employers as they have to accommodate longer periods of maternity and paternity leave and acknowledge requests for flexible working. Yet, despite honouring the letter and spirit of the law, employers are still finding that they lose female staff soon after maternity leave, or that those who do return become dissatisfied and restless.
Enter maternity coaching, a concept that has been on the market for about three years. The length and style of maternity coaching varies between providers, but it usually takes the form of a series of face-to-face individual coaching sessions, which are delivered during pregnancy, maternity leave and upon return to work. The intention is to support women at these times and help companies stem attrition.
"The cost to a company of a badly managed maternity leave is not purely financial, although that in itself presents a significant difficulty," says Duncan Fraser, managing director of the public sector development specialists The Way Ahead Group. "It also negatively affects client relationships, performance, organisational knowledge and goodwill."
The Way Ahead Group has just launched a maternity coaching programme for the voluntary and public sectors, which it says will offer a "reflective approach to maternity leave".
In the private sector, maternity coaching has been taken up by law firms and City banks. And even in these tough economic times, many providers are finding it is recession-proof.
"We have had an increase in the maternity coaching business in the past six months," says Geraldine Gallacher, managing director of the Executive Coaching Consultancy. The consultancy is finding that its clients are requesting extra coaching sessions for staff, and more maternity coaching products, such as group coaching workshops for support staff.
The benefits of maternity coaching are reflected in attrition rates, and so can be more easily measured than other types of coaching. However, there is no point in offering the coaching if job satisfaction has been overlooked.
"When women get back to work