The way to fix your company’s maternity leave program is not top-up

Allison Venditti
4 min readMay 12, 2021

We have a maternity leave crisis in workplaces.

Here is the issue:

Workplaces keep screaming these things:

  • Top Up. We have top up. You get 6 weeks of top up
  • We have a women’s employee group
  • We have awards

And women keep leaving. Small employers. Big employers. No one is doing it right.

I surveyed over 1000 Canadian women. They worked for — small companies, unionized companies, big banks, manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, healthcare, profit, non profit.

The message was clear — the way you handle maternity leave is broken.

Here are some of our statistics:

  • 95% of women were not offered any formal support during the maternity leave process.
  • 58% said their employers were not prepared for their return to work
  • 80% were not provided clear direction for how their return to work would be managed.

(To download the complete report please visit Ready to Return)

The fix is simple.

You need to fix the process and make it align with every other leave process that your company provides. Think about all the support that someone going on a worker’s compensation leave would obtain.

  • Clear process
  • Support to help navigate it
  • Not managers handling the process
  • Someone to set up the return to work meeting — to make sure everyone is set up and returned to work successfully
  • A graduated return to work plan (yes you would ramp back up to help ease the transition ie 3 days a week then 4 days a week and then 5 days a week)

The person/people responsible for managing this leave should be trained. They should have the capacity and access to information and support to faciliate a leave that is covered and protected by multiple pieces of legislation and can be confusing for those who are doing it for the first time.

Now imagine you told your boss that you were pregnant. You have dozens of questions. You want to know the things you need to do and what your options are on your leave.

Currently —

  • you dig around in the employee shared drive
  • you ask HR, email them again, call Service Canada
  • you ask your boss, you ask a person who has been on leave before
  • you email benefits — you don’t get an answer
  • you go on leave and your boss moves department s — when you try to set up a call — no one knows whose team you are on.
  • you call HR — but you are passed around like a hot potato
  • you finally have to escalate to a former VP whose number you found through linkedin to help you find the name of someone who can help.
  • you show up on your first day and you don’t have a desk
  • you leave 6 months later

They have done nothing “illegal” or “wrong” but for an employee who has invested on average 8 years working, this feels like a slap in the face. Fixing the process can fix this.

Let’s try again shall we….

Ready to Return way —

  • you are provided with a folder containing the details of how you can plan for your leave, a timeline to help transition your replacement, answers and phone numbers of your company contact who has completed the Ready to Return certificate program and is ready to help you.
  • You complete the forms deciding how you want to be contacted on your leave, you choose to be added to a list for job postings and company updates and you update the information for your contact who will contact you for the holiday party while you are off (because you haven’t missed it for the past 7 years and is your favourite thing!)
  • After the baby is born you look over the package about the options for how your return to work will look and the dates that you will be contacted for meetings and preperation for return. You get a welcome back email 2 months before your return and a meeting is set up with your new boss who asks you to select a new chair and gives you the updates on your new client list. During your leave you have already used some of the resources available to your organization including meeting with a lactation consultant to set up a pumping schedule and talking to a parenting coach about how to manage daycare transition.
  • You have chosen to start back with a graduated return to work. It has made all the difference. You fit in last minute appointments. Had lots of time to adjust and feel part of the team.
  • You tell your friends about your experince and they now want to work for your company. You submit two new applicants who were senior managers for roles in your company and they are hired. Your leadership team has gained two new female leaders.

Creating a process that is flexible to integrate to your company policies is key. Understanding how to manage pregnancy and infant loss needs to be addressed. There are so many small things to figure out.

That is why we did it. We created the checklists, folders and process for you. Let us teach you how to fix this.

Find us at

Have questions — shoot me an email

Allison Venditti is a Human Resources Leader with over 16 years experience developing and implementing scaleable return to work programs for multiple industries from 7 person startups to 10000 employee organizations across Canada. Ready to Return is the program designed over 5 years and 10 000 hours of reasearch, testing, surveys and beta teaching and conversations with employers and women to find out how to fix this process. She is also the founder of Canada’s largest group for working mothers — Moms at Work and is an advocate for systemic change in how we attract, retain and support working caregivers.



Allison Venditti

Career Coach, HR pro and advocate for working mothers. I write about working, parenting, HR & all that falls in between. #paytransparencynow