career

About to go on maternity leave? This is what you need to know.

You’ve been through those first months of endless feeding, nappy changing and sleepless nights and you’re ready to go back to work. At this point, you might be thinking “now what?”

Returning to work after maternity leave isn’t usually a complicated process, but it can help to have a maternity leave checklist. This way you know everything is ready to go and you’re calm as you possibly can be (given the circumstances) going into work on your first day back.

Liz Short, who works in Mamamia’s People and Culture team, says many potential sources stress are usually sorted out before a mum-to-be embarks on maternity leave.

Returning to work after maternity leave
Source: Getty.

"You would agree, before you go, on a return date because it's important for you, but also your employer to know what to do to back-fill your role," she says.

However, if you want to change that date, there is some flexibility.

"You do have under the law, the right to request an extension to the initial 12 months if you would like to."

Fair Work Australia's guidelines state that you need to give at least four weeks notice if you wish to extend your maternity leave, but Liz recommends letting your employer know as early as possible.

She adds that if you're returning to work in a different role (ie: full-time to part-time), your desire for altered working hours should also have been discussed before you leave and the details confirmed at least two to three months out.

Once you're happy with your return to work date - and your role - you can focus on the things that you need to make returning from maternity leave run as smoothly as possible.

Returning to work after maternity leave
Source: iStock.
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Childcare, tick. But have you tried getting them there?

While it's likely you'll have your childcare sorted well before your return-to-work date (if not, get onto it now!), what you may not have considered is the time it will take to get ready and do the drop-off.

Liz recommends doing a dry-run of your commute before D-Day just to be safe. Practice your morning routine with your partner - whatever you've decided that will be - and leave for work. If you're dropping off your child at a childcare centre or the grandparents' house, drive by there too, and even mimic the drop-off before heading to work. This way, if you didn't quite make it - or you're half an hour early - you can adjust for when the real day rolls around.

"I think the more you prepare yourself around that stuff, the better," Liz says.

Listen: Liz spoke to Monz and Bec about when to tell the boss you’re pregnant and what your rights are. (Post continues after audio.)

Your employer will take the lead

Liz says that employees can expect that they will be brought up to speed on anything they've missed while they're away on the day they're returning to work after maternity leave.

"If you take 12 months off, things are likely to have changed. The way I like to look at that is you're re-inducting the person into the workplace," she says.

Having said that, if you've been keeping in touch, there shouldn't be too many big surprises.

"When you are off on your leave, you do have 10 'keeping in touch days'. During your period of maternity leave you can go to conferences or go to meetings and stay in contact."

Your employer should call you a week or two before the date you're supposed to return just to confirm everything is still going as planned and reaffirm your start time, Liz says.

So all you have to do is make sure you're ready to kiss your baby goodbye for a few hours and (try to) show up on time.

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