This is a subject that regularly has HR experts taking a sharp intake of breath and running for cover. However in a couple of cases we have dealt with recently, a bit of honesty has reaped rewards. In both cases the jobs previously undertaken by the staff concerned had changed radically over the period of the maternity leave, and in both cases the company had come to me, concerned that the returner would not be able to do the job and with a cunning plan to “get round” the problem. We suggested being up front with the women concerned and ask them to come in for a Keeping in touch (KIT) day so they could see how things had developed over the nine months they had been away. In both cases the concerns were resolved amicably: One resulted in the woman resigning, one resulted in the women asking to take a different job which both parties were happy with.
Discussing awkward issues with staff only works if both sides feel the other is being honest, trying to fabricate a redundancy where none exists or suddenly raising an issue that has never been a problem in the past, only serves to make the employee feel they are being conned, and nobody is receptive when they feel like that. If you like its similar to how an employer feels if a member of staff tells them how much they contribute to the business when they are regularly late and refuse to do additional work to help catch up or they consistently fail to achieve deadlines.
Of course there are legal niceties to observe, but as my mum used to say honesty is always a better policy than the alternative. You won’t always get what you want but at least (if it is handled properly) you won’t be in a worse position.
If you have a “cunning plan” for your employees you want to discuss with someone, give me a call, there’s a prize for the first person who convinces me it’s a good idea!