Maternity / Paternity Leave – Do I recruit the best person for the job?
As a specialist interim recruiter at VMA Group, about 35% of the briefs I work on are to cover the maternity leave gap, with a small minority of paternity leave briefs. Over the years I have been recruiting interim managers for these roles, I have witnessed a number of ways that employers choose to fill the gap, ranging from not covering the role at all, to getting a junior person in to ‘keep the seat warm’ or recruiting an experienced interim manager.
When recruiting for a maternity / paternity leave, I’m more often than not briefed by the person who is going on leave. Recruiting for your own job can be a daunting and unsettling experience and the question most people ask themselves is “What if I recruit someone better than me?” “Will it make it hard for me to come back?” It’s this fear that could lead people to be tempted to recruit an average candidate for the job rather than the best individual.
However, just as with any recruitment decision, not recruiting the best person for the job can have strong repercussions, both during the contract and after the incumbent returns to work. The average length of a maternity contract is 6 – 9 months, and in an environment where change is a constant, just ‘ticking along’ can be costly. Communications is a function that has to be close to the heart of the business and respond quickly and effectively to any transformation or crisis, as it happens. If communications is left behind, the value of the role can be questioned or diminished and the returning mother or father could find themselves fighting for its reputation.
During a recent event we hosted on the topic, providing maternity / paternity leave cover was likened to being a foster parent. The role is something you have to nurture, grow and have an impact on, knowing that you aren’t going to take it on permanently. Others described themselves as being custodians of the role, ensuring that they continue to add value, stay connected to the business and make changes, so that the incumbent has something worth returning to and they can wave goodbye and move onto the next project knowing it was a job well done.
Interested in hearing more on this topic? VMA Group and The Counsel House recently carried out a joint study on maternity / paternity leave, including the Do’s and Don’ts of cover. The MatPat Study 2013 will be published this summer.
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