Supporting new mothers getting back to work

We tackle the important and underdeveloped topic of helping new mothers ease back into their professional roles, looking at the progress that’s still needed to help working women with families.

Motherhood is a great equaliser, transcending societal boundaries and personal backgrounds. Regardless of your social status, education, nationality or income, the uncharted territory of parenthood is always an unpredictable journey, from the potentially difficult path to pregnancy, to nine months of childbearing and everything that comes after.

Help and equality

Supporting new mums back to work is not just an issue that deeply affects many women – it can also be framed as a societal obligation. Empowering women to smoothly reintegrate into their professional lives after the life-altering experience of motherhood is crucial for fostering gender equality, a varied talent pool to draw from all the way up the company structure and the overall wellbeing of women in our society.

A big decision

Whether it’s your first little one or you’re expanding your family, the dynamics shift dramatically, catching even the most prepared woman off guard. In this modern world where many families rely on two incomes, returning to work after having children is a necessary step for most and for plenty of women, it’s also a continuation of their self-identity and career. The decision to return to work after maternity leave is inherently fraught with mixed emotions – excitement at embracing the professional realm once again, but also guilt at leaving little ones behind. In the UAE, where family values are deeply rooted, this struggle is very common. Employers, communities and regional policy all play pivotal roles in ensuring this transition is as accessible as possible for new mums.

New needs

The reality for many is that bearing a child and becoming a mother is a sea change, physically, mentally, emotionally and in terms of responsibilities. It’s unrealistic of society to expect women to return to their previous role exactly as they were before without any help to do so. Priorities must be completely reordered and your body and hormones are also in the process of healing and balancing – it’s a lot to manage! This shift echoes across multiple parts of women’s lives and is precisely why mothers returning to work need some accommodations so they can realistically fulfil their roles.

This doesn’t imply a lack of readiness on the part of a woman to resume her professional duties but it underscores the importance of assistance in reintegrating into the workforce, facilitated by a supportive company with a well-structured maternity program. There is certainly a need for a wider conversation around the fact that women need some understanding in order to be able to give their best to their job, and it’s an enormous expectation to assume they will return to work as they were, juggling the healing process and their maternal responsibilities, without any additional help.

Helpful steps

Supporting pregnant or new mothers at work doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour. It can be as straightforward as seeing and accepting their dynamic needs and keeping the channels of communication open and genuinely helpful.

Companies and employers treating mothers returning to work positively tend to witness a decline in absenteeism and a notable increase in employee retention – but it’s vital to understand that this involves more than just keeping women’s positions open.

Giving women support easing back into the workplace involves thinking about details that are often overlooked. Returning mums might need time and access to suitable spaces for expressing breast milk, or slightly less rigidity in working hours to navigate childcare challenges or family sickness.


A useful element in supporting new mothers back to work would be the implementation of flexible work arrangements. Forward-thinking companies recognise that a rigid 9-to-5 schedule may not be conducive to the needs of new parents. Offering flexible working hours, remote work options or compressed work weeks allows mums to balance their professional responsibilities with the demands of a growing family. Even in workplaces where flexibility is not standard practice, offering suitable time off for appointments is vital.

In the UAE, where the business landscape is diverse, embracing flexibility sends a powerful message – that family matters. By fostering an environment that accommodates the needs of new mothers, companies not only retain valuable talent but also contribute to building a corporate culture that promotes a decent work-life balance.

Support programs

Companies could consider creating more thorough parental support programs. These might include on-site childcare facilities, dedicated breastfeeding spaces or healthcare benefits that make some provisions for women healing from the physical demands of pregnancy. Investing in these kinds of initiatives not only supports parents, but also signals strongly that the company values its employees – plenty of which are likely women. In the UAE, companies are increasingly recognising the importance of providing robust parental support programs. By acknowledging the unique challenges faced by working mothers and actively working to address them, these businesses contribute to a more inclusive and compassionate work environment and a positive company culture that people genuinely enjoy working in.


When women feel helped in the workplace, the loyalty to their company and the resulting rewards speak for themselves. Keeping a valued employee is far more economical than recruiting a new one. Studies indicate that American companies with supportive maternity programs stand to earn $3 back for every $1 invested, and that’s before we account for the fact that there is a subsequent 67% rise in talent retention.

It takes a village

Management and those with power in a workplace would make the world a better place if they would ensure that mothers are treated with more respect. Bearing children is the basis for life and this should be seen as a positive, not simply an imposition on company resources. Advocating for better understanding and more sustainable expectations, as well as proper support to excel is sorely needed. Mums shouldn’t have to navigate this maze alone and the collective necessary effort involves help from a wider ‘tribe’, together with community efforts, regional policies and proper, progressive support in the workplace.


Beyond the corporate realm, communities play a vital role in supporting new mums back to work, building a network of understanding and encouragement. In the UAE, where the sense of community is deeply ingrained, establishing these networks can make a significant difference to a mother’s wellbeing during this transition.

It would be wonderful to see local communities and groups organising workshops, seminars and events tailored to the needs of new mothers. These initiatives would not only provide valuable information on navigating the professional landscape post-maternity leave, but also foster a sense of solidarity among women facing similar challenges. Community-driven efforts can create a supportive ecosystem that empowers mothers to pursue the professional aspirations they can manage, without compromising their preferred family roles.

Policy and maternity leave

Government policies play a pivotal role in shaping the landscape for working mothers. In the UAE, recent strides have been made to enhance maternity leave benefits and create a more conducive environment for mothers returning to work. Recognising the importance of allowing new mothers ample time to bond with their infants, the UAE government has extended maternity leave benefits, but there is still more progress to be made in order to support and acknowledge the role of mothers as key contributors to both the workforce and society. Last year, the labour law increased paid maternity leave to 60 days, with 45 days of full pay and another 15 days at half pay. While this is a step in the right direction, it’s easy to understand that 60 days of leave isn’t always enough time for a woman to get back on her feet professionally and personally after birth.

In terms of maternity leave, the UAE is behind much of the world. Iceland offers both parents four months of parental leave. Many European countries allow the option of between 25 and 50 weeks of maternity leave. On the other end of the scale, the USA offers absolutely none by law. Regardless, there are plenty of challenges facing women navigating maternity leave in the UAE. Many feel caught between wanting to heal, adjust and bond with their little bundle of joy, and feeling pressure to return to their workplace earlier than they would like. This is a result of the fact that there is often unspoken judgement on those who don’t opt to come back after just 45 days, the misconception being that the woman doesn’t want to return at all or doesn’t value her professional role. This kind of thinking forces many women into a position where they feel pressured to quit their careers in order to raise families instead. It would be wonderful to see companies in the region falling in line with international standards in maternity care. While legal requirements may fall short, private companies have the autonomy to implement their own policies around parental leave. Ultimately, women should not have to make the choice between being a mother and having a career. We should have an environment where it is encouraged to do both if that is what the woman wants.

A collaborative effort

Supporting new mums back to work in the UAE is not a solitary endeavour; it’s a collaborative effort that requires commitment from individuals, companies, communities and the government. By recognising the multifaceted challenges faced by mothers and actively working to address them, we can raise the benchmark for gender inclusivity and family-friendly workplaces.

As you navigate the delicate balance of motherhood and professional life, remember that each empowered mother returning to the workforce contributes not only to the growth of her family, but also to the prosperity of the nation. Progress is woven into the fabric of society and so the journey of supporting new mothers back to work is a shared responsibility – one that elevates us all.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Previous The benefits of non-invasive prenatal testing
Next The power of saying "Yes, and..."

You might also like


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.