If, like most women on maternity leave, you take a bit longer, such as between six months to two years, things will have changed. And it’s natural to be a bit concerned about how.
(For more information, don’t forget to read Part I)
When a woman is on maternity leave and thinking about
going back to work, about a billion thoughts go through her head. It is normal to
find your job, and your ability to do it, quite different to how it was when
you left it.
The amount of time women take off tends to vary
between four weeks and two years, depending greatly on the individual and her
support network and resources.
Some women only want to take a little time, and some
are only able to take a little time because of their personal circumstances.
Going back to work very quickly means that your job won’t have changed at all,
it will be just like you’ve had a little holiday (some holiday, but anyhow).
If, like most women on maternity leave, you take a bit
longer, such as between six months to two years, things will have changed. And
it’s natural to be a bit concerned about how.
What if you need different
hours or other changes to your job?
Legally your employer has to keep your job. You’re
entitled to twelve months (unpaid) maternity leave and can also ask for an
additional twelve months after that, and your job will be held for you.
But what if you can’t do your old job?
Most women returning to work will do so part-time and
will need adjusted hours or changed conditions to the role. You have a whole
pile of new things you have to also include in your life now, such as
Does your employer have to give you an alternate option?
Or are they only required to keep your exact job?
According to the government website:
Under the Fair Work
Act, employees who have responsibility for the care of a child and are
returning to work after taking leave in relation to the birth of the child may
request to work part-time to assist the employee to care for the child.
You must make your
request for flexibility in writing and your employer must respond to the
request in writing within 21 days.
A request can be refused by your employer on
‘reasonable business grounds’ which may include (but is not limited to)
considerations such as that:
arrangements would be too costly
There is no
capacity to change the working arrangements of other employees to accommodate
the proposed arrangements
It would be
impractical to change the working arrangements of other employees or recruit
new employees to accommodate the proposed arrangements
arrangements would be likely to result in a significant loss in efficiency or
arrangements would be likely to have a significant negative impact on customer
business grounds’ will vary from business to business and take into account the
size of the organisation.
So legally, you can ask for a flexible arrangement,
and unless they have excellent grounds for not doing so, your employer needs to
offer you one.
But technically, your employer does not have to give
adjusted hours or conditions, if their business won’t be able to support it. Or
alternatively, they may offer you a flexible arrangement which doesn’t really
work for you.
Possible flexible work arrangements include:
Returning to your same job, but with less hours (and
hopefully a reduced role!)
A shared job arrangement with another part-timer
Some ability to work from home or after hours
Returning to a different role with the same employer,
that is better suited to part-time hours than your previous one.
You need to consider what is best for you and your
family. Try to not make decisions based on what is best for your employer, your
colleagues, or because you think you should be awesome at everything.
What if you are out of date
with your industry now?
Time off with a newborn does a number of things to
your ability to work; it means you may miss changes in your industry, and it
means your brain may get a bit out of practice at working.
What can you do to help with this?
Stay in touch with your employer or friends in the
industry, so that you can be informed of any upheavals or developments. Try not
to do this so often however that you are stressing yourself out about it
Do a bit of work from home prior to returning to keep
your brain alive and keep in touch
Undertake some online study or professional
development while you are home. Even some reading or watching webinars can be
enough to keep your confidence going.
What if you want a whole
Many, many mums, myself included, don’t want to go
back to the job they had before. For me, I had a demanding job in social
services, where I often took work home with me. And I felt I just didn’t have
that much of me to give to the same role when I had my baby to think about to.
So, I chose a role more based in administration (and more clearly defined as
You have changed since having a baby in ways you can’t
Your interests and emotional feelings may be
significantly different. Your body may have changed as well, so that you can’t
physically do the same job as before.
You have all this extra stuff on your
mind and in your life that wasn’t there before, so you may not be happy doing
what you used to do.
Your career goals may have changed, because you are
not the same person as before, and that is natural, and really common.
choose not to return to the same job because you have essentially doubled your
workload by adding a baby to your life, and you shouldn’t be expected to work
as much or be as focused as before.
Many working mothers place themselves under
unreasonable stress because they try to work as well as before and be
incredibly devoted mothers at the same time.
You can have work/life balance,
but it needs to be a BALANCE, not just you trying to be great at everything. You may need to be kind to yourself and admit to some compromises for your own
physical or mental health.
Some great ideas that will help keep you sane include:
Talking to your partner about them doing more around
Getting a cleaner
Getting your groceries delivered, or looking into one
of the new fantastic ready-made meal delivery services such as
HelloFresh.com.au or MarleySpoon.com.au
Schedule in time for being by yourself, such as
exercise or just having fun
Connect with other mothers in the same boat
Accepting that your full-time job may reasonably need
to be made less harder somehow
Talking to a counsellor if you feel yourself under too
much emotional stress
Have a nap
If you take public transport, using this time more
wisely, such as buying your groceries, planning your menu, or doing some
Learn mindfulness, which is being entirely present in
the moment doing what you are doing, rather than worrying about what you are
Reduce your standards a little bit at home, such as
look at quicker ways to make meals or making them in bulk, or not ironing
Make a priorities list of household chores that have
to be done, and those that really don’t. Trying to undertake just a couple of
chores every day to keep on top of it.
Swallow your pride and ASK FOR HELP
Have you been discriminated
against? And how can you tell?
Legally, if your employer has sufficient grounds, they
don’t have to offer you a flexible arrangement, but they do have to keep your
It often happens that we go back to work, either in
the same or an adjusted role, and then find ourselves experiencing things that
don’t seem fair somehow.
On the surface, your employer may seem to be upholding
the law, but if you look a little deeper, some discrimination may be going on.
You are right to be suspicious if:
You are given a job part-time but expected to do the
tasks of your old full-time role (in half the hours and for half the pay!)
You are given a flexible arrangement that is
unworkable or unfair on you as a staff member, such as work location, work
hours or your specific tasks.
You are given the chance to come back, but not allowed
to advance in your career or develop your skills in the same way that workers
around you (who haven’t taken maternity leave) are.
If you are denied a promotion because you have taken
You are given a role that is below your current
capabilities or responsibility level
If your role is unreasonably restructured or you are
not informed of restructure changes
Legally, your employer can’t do the following:
fail to consult with you about any
significant change to your pre-parental leave position while you were on leave
(under the Fair Work Act)
fail to return you to your pre-leave
position (under the Fair Work Act)
or deny your request for a flexible
work arrangement without reasonable grounds
take adverse action (such as changing your
reporting line and duties) against you because you had taken parental leave
(under the Fair Work Act)
take action that would be discriminating
against you on the basis ofyour pregnancy and sex, giving rise to a claim under
the Sex Discrimination Act or state and territory anti-discrimination
legislation or an action under the Fair Work Act.
And quite a few other things not listed
If you are unsure if you have been
discriminated against, talk to a trusted colleague, your HR person, or consult
with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Welcome to Babyinfo – the ultimate pregnancy and newborn information guide. We are here to help you find all the pregnancy and baby info you need to make the most beautiful experience of your life even better.
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