Tips For Returning To Work After Parental Leave
Parental leave is a notoriously difficult time for any family. The idea of returning to work can be daunting with all that needs to be accomplished in the short period of time before the little one starts school, but it doesn't have to be.
In this article, I am going to give you six tips on how you can make your return from parental leave easier and less stressful.
For first-time parents, taking parental leave is an unknown and many of us aren't prepared for how difficult it can be to return to work after spending months away, both in body and spirit.
Employees who have taken 'ordinary maternity' or parental leave are entitled to return to the job they had prior to going on leave, according to the law. (Any longer than the designated 26-week period, the rules change slightly; according to acas.or.uk: "If you use additional maternity leave, you still have the right to return to your job on the same terms as before you left.
But, if it's not possible because there have been significant changes to the organisation, you could be offered a similar job. In this case, the job cannot be on worse terms than before".
Despite this, parents wishing to return part-time are frequently disappointed when they discover that their reduced working hours affects the types of tasks/projects they are given.
Those leaving early to do child-pickups must also be prepared for the fact that they may no longer seen as a team player, when it comes to being part of said projects.
Then there's the bias, where – whether intentionally or not – career-restricting prejudice occurs after a parent's return and, sadly, this issue is all too common.
One in two women reported experiencing workplace discrimination at some time in their lives, according to a 2014 investigation by the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission.
According to the study, over a quarter (27 percent) of both fathers and partners stated that they had experienced parental leave and return-to-work discrimination despite only taking a short break from their career.
There's also the issue of salary - it seems that nearly half (46%) of all mothers believed they had been financially disadvantaged due to taking time off for maternity leave within the first five years after birth.
According to a 2014 study by Mercer Consulting, full-time working women with children under two were earning 17 percent less than their male counterparts, while those with children under the age of 18 were earning nearly 24 percent less.
It may not feel like it, however, there is some good news: there are lots of things that you can do to try to make your transition back into the working environment as smooth as possible:
- Although this may seem as a little optimistic, considering the reason you are temporarily stepping away from work, determining how you view your return to work at the beginning of your leave can be incredibly helpful in setting you on the best path; do you intend to have a complete break from your place of work to look after your child and a chance to re-evaluate your role within the company/industry/working market as a whole or would you like to still keep your hand in (depending on the industry within which you work, this could mean keeping on top of changes in legislation around the work you do, updating your qualifications and/or learning additional skills, etc.) Doing the latter reminds your employer that, while you are not present in person, you are still their employee. Also, women who use keeping in touch programs and other methods to stay connected while on parental leave are more “retainable” than those who do not.
- Once you have determined where you fit back in, consider – based on your prior experience, abilities and skills – what you would like your role to be. When women go back to work and use their imagination as a foundation for their conversations, biases against them are reduced. Having a clear structure for your return to work is always a good reminder for your employers that they want you back and that it would serve them to work around your needs as well as theirs!
- Be clear with your manager and HR department about the reduced hours and tasks you will be doing on your return. You don't have to go into the minutiae, but it is important for you and your manager to know what kind of tasks are within your capabilities so that they can be assigned accordingly.
- To avoid being seen as a 'parent' rather than an equal team member on projects or with clients, try to contribute in the same way as you did before your leave. You can do this by researching or staying on top of current affairs in the field that you are working within.
- If possible, try to stay involved with projects and clients even when your hours have been reduced so it becomes more normal for them. This will help reduce any awkwardness between yourself and other team members that may arise from your reduced presence.
- When returning part-time, it can be a difficult transition for both yourself and other team members. Nevertheless, try to continue doing the things you used to do before taking leave so as not to cause too much disruption or inconvenience. It will make this transitional period easier on everyone involved. For those who are returning to a part-time position, it's crucial to have a clear delegation plan in place for when you're not at the workplace; what does that look like?
- If possible, try to stay involved with projects and clients in whatever capacity you are able, even when your hours have been reduced, as it becomes more normal for them - this could help reduce any awkwardness between yourself and other team members that may arise from your reduced presence.
- As a first-time parent, if you are concerned about how returning to work after parental leave might affect the quality of life for your child, there are ways around this.
If you’re feeling uncertain about what to do, don't worry - we've put together a few things that may help make your decision easier.
When it comes to returning to work after maternity leave, there is no one-size-fits all answer for every woman and family.
It really depends on the individual needs of each person or couple involved in this situation which means taking time before making any decisions will give parents more information with which they can weigh their options.
We hope these points have helped clarify some of your questions about parenting and return to work situations so take them into consideration when deciding how best to proceed post-baby!