According to Statistics Canada, from 2012 to 2017, more than 2 million people took paid or unpaid leave related to adopting or having a child—that's 90% of new mothers and around 70% of new fathers. With mothers taking between 27 and 52 weeks of leave on average and fathers taking around 5 weeks of leave, businesses must plan ahead to hire maternity leave replacements.

common challenges when hiring temporary replacements for employees on maternity leave

Hiring temporary workers to mind the gap while your permanent staff are on long-term leave can be a challenge. Here are just a few common obstacles businesses run into when hiring maternity or paternity leave replacements.

  • Understanding what type of support they really need
  • Planning ahead to keep from making rushed decisions
  • Finding replacements with the right skill sets
  • Hiring candidates willing to commit the time necessary for the position
  • Ensuring the hand-off is seamless when the time comes for someone to take leave

a step-by-step process to hire a maternity leave replacement

Follow our guide for hiring temporary workers to replace someone that's going on maternity or paternity leave to mitigate some of those challenges and ensure a more successful outcome for everyone involved.

1. plan ahead

We get it: hiring takes time, resources and energy you may not have right now. It's tempting to put off the decision until the time is almost upon you. But pregnancy and childbirth are unpredictable. our pregnant employee could go into labour earlier than their due date or have complications or other concerns that cause them to need to leave earlier than expected. 

The earlier you start the hiring process, the less pressure there is on everyone. You can take time to work with HR partners and the person going on leave to ensure a seamless transition. You also have time to carefully consider the temp worker you choose to reduce the risk of a bad hire.

2. determine the skills you need

Take time to truly consider the skills you need. Talk to the person who is going on leave to ensure you understand what they do—it may have changed some since they were hired. You might also talk to the people that person reports to or serves within the organization—what do they need from the position.

List soft skills, core skills that can't be overlooked and nice-to-haves. For example, if you're replacing an administrative staff member in charge of project documentation, skills you might require include:

  • Project management knowledge
  • Stellar written and oral communication skills
  • Ability to manage details, timelines and other factors
  • Knowledge of or experience with document management software
  • Knowledge management experience

It would be nice to get a replacement that's worked specifically with your document or project management platforms. But that's not always possible, so you might list that as a nice-to-have knowing you could train someone with the right experience quickly.

3. create a job description

You might already have a job description for this position and that's great. But you shouldn't automatically assume it will work for hiring a replacement. Review it to ensure it hasn't changed or that you don't want to change it given the fact that you're hiring someone temporarily. In some cases, you may want to shuffle a few responsibilities to a permanent employee instead of the temp replacement, for example.

Whether you update an existing job description or write one from scratch for hiring a temporary worker, include a detailed list of responsibilities for the role and why a candidate might want to join your company temporarily. 

4. source candidates

Post the job opening internally and externally, including online. Or, work with a recruiting partner such as Randstad to draw from an existing database of talent.

5. narrow down candidates

Use HR technology, such as applicant tracking systems, to automatically filter resumes and applications to find people who may be qualified. Then, review those documents to further narrow the field to talent who are qualified  and fit with the culture of your company.

6. conduct interviews

Schedule interviews with candidates on the shortlist. During the pandemic and even after, most companies are conducting interviews remotely, so make sure you understand how to handle remote interviews effectively

If you're working with Randstad, you can be as involved as you want in this process. We partner with you to provide the level of HR and recruiting support you need, which can range from only providing shortlists of candidates to conducting all the interviews for you and sending you pre-qualified candidate profiles.

7. make a hiring decision

Once you have all the information, make a decision on who to hire. You probably want to do this several weeks to several months before the person goes on leave to ensure a seamless transition. Ideally, there should be some overlap between your employee going on maternity leave and when their replacement starts, to provide knowledge transfer and ensure that no balls are dropped during the transition period. 

8. onboard and provide training

Planning ahead and making the final hiring decision before someone goes on leave gives you time for onboarding and training that involves the person going on leave. This allows them to update their replacement on tasks and projects on the go and ensure everything goes smoothly. Even the most qualified of candidates need some orientation time and training to fit into your team and use systems and processes that may be unique to your company.

let an HR partner take the task from your shoulders

An HR partner such as Randstad can take over some or all of this work for you, providing peace of mind for everyone involved. Check out our guide on how to use an HR partner to hire temporary workers to find out more about how we can support you in finding maternity leave replacements.