So do we!
Recently a lawyer who was towards the end of an interview process at a large bank, wanted to enquire about the maternity policy at their potential new employer. As recruiters we are constantly discussing and negotiating benefits, and can are usually provide a full list. But we are not usually informed of the maternity policy upfront, which left Tracy and I questioning… how should this question be raised?
It is a perfectly reasonable question to ask but understandably job seekers are concerned about how it reflects on them. I.e. will the new employer think that they are going to accept the job, become pregnant, and take up to 12 months maternity leave very quickly? It would be nice to think that even if this were to happen, it shouldn’t be an issue. However, there are many practical reasons why it can make things very challenging for employers, particularly small businesses, who have recruitment, salary and maternity leave costs to consider. And for us, it is an easy question to ask at the beginning of the process but much harder at a later stage, as it generally points to one person being particularly keen to receive the information.
The lawyer mentioned above was one of two at final interview stage. She intended to spend at least 3-5 years with her next employer and was hoping to have children towards the end of that time period. She wanted to compare the whole package at two potential employers but didn’t want this question to negatively impact her chances. After agonising over it, we agreed that we would lean on our network in order to get the information. With over 15 years in the industry each, we knew enough people to be able to make a few phone calls to people we know and within 30 minutes had the information she needed.
This is a matter close to my heart as it effectively happened to me. I joined my last employer at 30 years old and had been married for a year. I questioned whether it was a sensible time to be moving but couldn’t stay in a job that wasn’t fulfilling. I made the leap, and was then pleasantly surprised to find out that I was expecting my first child just 6 weeks into my new job. I was delighted, but also very nervous about telling my employer as I had been entrusted to develop a new business line, and I felt as though I was letting them down. I wished that I had asked about the maternity policy beforehand. It turned out that I hadn’t been employed long enough to qualify for the maternity package and was only eligible for the statutory allowance. However, they treated me brilliantly, making it clear that they had hired me for the long term and were expecting great things on my return. They also topped up my statutory pay to put me on a par with longer term employees. They treated me better than I could have possibly expected and in return won considerable loyalty from me. I stayed there for 10 years!
I was very lucky, and also worked for a smaller employer meaning more flexibility was on offer. In most cases when we have asked, HR have not readily had the information to hand, which shows how seldom this gets raised. So our advice would be use your recruiters. If it is on your mind, don’t leave it to the last interview to ask your recruiter to find out, but tell them that this is something you want to know from the outset. And try to use recruiters who have strong networks and can get inside information to you. This doesn’t just apply to maternity policy, but to expected working hours, flexible working, team dynamics, culture and bonuses. Not everyone sees recruiters as helpful, and we understand why, but we will try to make the process easier for you if we can.