Case study: Ford drives up number of returning mums

Ford Motor Company offers maternity leave of 52 weeks at 100% of pay. All employee benefits, including pension contributions and company car, continue throughout that period. The company, which has 12,000 staff in the UK, won ‘Best for maternity’ in Working Families’ Top Employers awards 2010.

Ford operates a buddy system to support female staff during their maternity leave and return to work. Mitra Janes, diversity and inclusion manager at Ford, says: “It has worked very positively, particularly for first-time mothers who are returning to work after essentially a whole year away from their job.”

Each leaver is also assigned an HR associate, who supports and advises them from early pregnancy, through maternity leave, to their return to work.

The firm’s parent-friendly perks also include childcare vouchers; private rooms for expressing milk and refrigeration facilities so milk can be stored safely; reimbursement for antenatal classes and free antenatal information packs; and onsite childcare for the 3,000 staff at its largest facility in Essex.

Ford also runs maternity workshops and, starting this year, it will be staging a workshop for new fathers as well. Janes says: “We have been thinking for a while that there are some things we can do to better engage with the fathers group. It is a good precursor to the legislation change and hopefully this will encourage fathers to consider what their rights are.”

Currently, an average of 98% of new mothers at Ford return to the organisation following maternity leave. Janes says: “We put that down to the fact that we place our maternity returners into proper jobs – they are not sidelined into project roles.

“We are able to offer a wide range of flexible working opportunities and we have got things like onsite childcare available to our staff. All of these things help us to drive that percentage up.”

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