How to conduct an effective maternity leave handover

By Robert Half 22nd October 2019

Before you head off to have quality time with your new arrival, you’ll need to make sure you have a maternity leave plan of action in place. One of the critical aspects of this is your maternity leave handover.

Here are the key  things to consider within your maternity handover, such as what it should cover and how to collect and distribute handover notes when going on leave. 

Your effective guide to maternity handover

Start planning early
Once you’ve decided when you’d like to start your leave, it’s advisable to start making your maternity leave plan of action straight away. Legally, the earliest you’re able to start maternity leave is 11 weeks before your due date, and the latest is the due date itself so that you can use this timeline as a guide. 

Set a date to have your handover completed and work backwards from it, making sure to leave plenty of time to find and train maternity cover well in advance of that final day.  Ideally, you will want to build in a handover period on either side of your maternity leave.

Robert Half can help you find short-term maternity cover. Get in touch with a specialist temporary and contract recruitment consultant today.

Compile your maternity cover notes as you go
Sitting down to write a handover document in the last week of work increases the chances of missing something important. It’s far better to start compiling maternity handover notes at the same time you start making your maternity leave plan.

Start with the critical pieces of information your temporary cover will need to know, then add to your document each time as something new occurs to you. By adding as you go, you’re more likely to create a thorough record of handover notes when going on leave.

These notes will also prove very useful for deciding the skills, attributes and experience your maternity cover will need. Providing this level of detail to a specialist recruitment consultant will help to give a clear recruitment brief.

Consider the bigger picture
A maternity leave handover isn’t just a case of briefing your direct cover; you’ll also need to consider the bigger picture. Note down all the upcoming projects the business has planned while you’re away, any recurring seasonal activity which is scheduled to take place, then consider which of your colleagues will need to work with your maternity cover.

Set up quick meetings with these colleagues to see what they feel they’ll need in your absence and use this to write your maternity handover notes. You’ll get a clearer picture of what can be picked up by your maternity cover and what can be picked up by your colleagues. 

Set up a training plan and timeline for your cover
Sit down with your line manager before you start your maternity leave handover plan and agree on a length of time needed to train your maternity cover.

Find maternity cover for your role

You can use the maternity leave notes you’ve already compiled and feedback from your one-to-one meetings with colleagues to estimate how much ground you’ll need to cover before your maternity handover deadline. Be sure to leave enough time to help your cover settle into the role as this is an ideal opportunity for them to ask any questions before you head off.

Create a central document hub
Are there documents you know your maternity cover or colleagues will need to access while you’re gone? You can create a central document hub using software like Google Docs or Dropbox as part of your maternity leave handover. 

Refer back to your one-to-one colleague meetings, ‘big picture’ assessment and basic business-as-usual notes to identify which documents will be needed. You can email a short filing system guide to all relevant parties before you leave and offer to take any questions or give a demo, so it’s quick and easy for them to find what they need while you’re away.

Help create connections
Your maternity cover should be able to feel as though they can integrate quickly with the team and pick up where you left off. You can help speed this along by creating a contact list for each aspect of the job (emails, names and job roles etc.) and by taking the time to introduce your cover to each colleague during their training period. 

You can also arrange to have your maternity cover alongside you while conducting final handover meetings with managers and colleagues, so everyone is on the same page. 

Arrange ‘keeping in touch days’
You’re entitled to 10 ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days during your maternity leave, which allows you to come back to work for a day or even just a few hours. If you’re keen to remain linked to business activity, you can schedule KIT days in as part of your maternity leave plan of action, so your integration back to work is smoother, and your cover remains supported. 

If you don’t wish to use KIT days while on leave, you should aim to let your maternity cover or colleagues know whether or not you’re happy to be contacted while away. By including this information as part of your maternity handover, you’re setting healthy boundaries. 

Top tip to avoid maternity handover stress

It’s best to stagger any maternity leave handover activity to avoid overloading your colleagues. Be sure to book your meetings and arrange cover training for a week or so, to ensure there’s plenty of time for information to sink in and questions to be asked.

Let Robert Half help with maternity leave planning

Now that you have your maternity leave plan in place, you may want to start exploring your options for effective maternity cover. Contact the Robert Half team today or submit your vacancy and find the right fit for your team. 

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