Claire Flannery

As part of the new PAI Maternity Series, I am delighted to be working in partnership with Sharon Dillon-Lyons and PAI to bring a pre-maternity course to life this autumn. This is the first of its kind in Ireland and is an excellent investment for smart employers who wish to empower and support their employees through the significant transition of becoming a parent, and taking time out of the workplace.


With the substantial body of research demonstrating the business, economic and societal benefits of gender balance in the workplace, there is an increasing focus on the need to look at ways to attract, engage and retain women, and support them to progress their careers into leadership roles.

A key area of focus is the point at which employees start a family and the early parenting years. Becoming a parent and taking time out of the workplace involves a significant, complex professional and personal transition, and often comes during a crucial time in an individual’s career trajectory.  How this transition is managed by the individual, their line manager and their employer, can set the stage for the medium to long-term well-being, engagement, commitment, and retention of key talent in your organisation.

Gender Pay Gap

Recent CSO statistics highlight this life stage as the point where the Gender Pay Gap starts to widen significantly, and where female workforce participation rates drop by 20%. The 30% Club,  which campaigns for greater representation of women at board level, says two-thirds of women end up working below their potential after career breaks.

Maternity Experiences

Recent UK research (EHRC 2016) found that 77% of women had a negative or discriminatory experience during pregnancy, maternity leave and/or return from maternity leave. A 2018 international report from PwC, Time to Talk: What Has to Change for Women at Work,  found that 42 per cent felt nervous about the impact children might have on their careers, 48 per cent said they felt they were overlooked for career advancement because they had children.

Transition & Employee Wellbeing

The transition to parenthood is often described as one of the most challenging transitions in life, when major changes occur within the lives of expectant and new parents. In looking at wellbeing of new parents, research suggests that 1 in 6 women suffer from postnatal depression (HSE).

During this transition, individuals have to learn to adapt to the physical, psychological, emotional and relational changes that occur. In addition, taking time away from their career often involves professional, situational and identity changes. Further changes subsequently occur at the point at which the individual returns to work, with further identity and lifestyle changes.

Preparing for change

So, how can we help our employees to thrive through this change?

One big factor in successful transition is taking ample time to prepare for the changes ahead. As employers, we can help expectant parents to:

  • Acquire knowledge about what is yet to come and equip themselves with coping strategies to help with transition.
  • Understand the professional transition involved in maternity leave and what steps they can take to proactively plan for this career break.
  • Build open lines of communication at work, and have the confidence to seek support where needed, and get back on track when they return to work.
  • Build their tools for self-care, mental fitness and resilience.
  • Build a network of support for themselves, with resources and information readily available as needed.

Upcoming workshop

The upcoming pre-maternity course covers this and more. Running over two consecutive days, this course covers practical aspects of preparing your employees to take a step away from their career; manage their mental and physical well-being through this change; and look at what they can do now to set themselves up for a successful return.

Participants will come away with a plan of action for professional leave, plus skills and knowledge to handle the personal transition.

In addition to the benefit of having healthy, resilient employees; providing this type of support goes a long way in demonstrating a commitment to supporting working mothers and building a sense of trust with employees feeling ‘invested-in’. This ultimately supports better engagement, performance and retention, and protects female leadership pipelines for the future.

Pre-Maternity Course: Employee Workshop

October 23 & 24, For more information, or to book, click here


Claire Flannery is the Founder and Director of ‘Strength Within’ coaching and consultancy, where she focuses on helping people create the headspace and mental clarity to discover, cultivate and maximise their strength within. Claire is a qualified Business Psychologist and Executive, Business & Personal Coach with over a decade of experience working in HR leadership in Financial and Professional Services. She has worked with business leaders and individuals through significant organisational and personal change, including periods of organisational growth, restructure and downsizing. She is also a mum to two small boys and has personal experience of successfully managing her career while preparing to transition out of, and back into, the workforce.