Planning a return to work after having a baby can seem like the last thing on the mind of a pregnant mum but many parents first start organising childcare for their baby when they are pregnant, some sooner than others. The key is preparation. One mum told me she has put her name down on waiting lists before becoming pregnant – that’s confidence and taking ‘preparation’ too far! Many parents will be working full time while pregnant. Some mums will be coasting through pregnancy in a glowing bliss bubble, preparing for an ‘orgasmic birth’ (yes, apparently they do exist.) Other mums go to work with an alluring ‘sick’ smell they just can’t seem to get rid of, others find pregnancy complicated and end up spending more time with clinical staff at the hospital than their colleagues at work. But one thing unites these mums. They want to continue their careers in some capacity and that will require childcare after baby has arrived. It might be childcare provided by their parents, it might be provided from family daycare, nannies, au pairs or by being a stay at home parent.
We’ve got 10 easy steps to follow to get yourself organised to secure the right childcare for you and your family and make an easy transition back to work. Think about childcare before baby arrives. I know it seems pretty weird and against superstition to tell, of all people, a stranger like a childcare centre director but it’s tough and competitive out there and it’s time to get your game on.
1. You need to know all about the Sex Discrimination Act:
1 in 3 women are discriminated against when they are pregnant in Australia. It could be your responsibilities are reduced because of your perceived capabilities. It could be being overlooked for a role because you are pregnant. The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (the SDA) makes it unlawful to treat a person unfairly because of their sex, family responsibilities or because they are pregnant. The SDA can also provide some protections to people wanting to return to work after parental leave. You can ask questions of make a complaint on: 1300 656 419 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Researching and Waitlisting for Childcare
If you are looking for childcare in any major capital city in Australia book early, understand the different types of childcare. Get your head around the government rebates system. Luckily we have a fact sheet on different types of care, aren’t we organised! (I say we, it’s just me and it’s taken 2 years.) Consider wait listing baby bump for different types of care. Some childcare centres will require a deposit, some are free. Deposits can range from $10 – $200. Consider ones near where you live and ones near where you work. Cover your options and be creative. Visit the centres, family daycare. Get to know what you like and how you define quality childcare. The government have a national register to check centres are constantly maintaining high standards in the National Quality Framework which covers 7 quality areas from Educational Program and Practice through to the physical environment and children’s health and safety. You can look up your local centres on the register here
3. When to tell your employer
There is no general legal requirement to let your employer know about your pregnancy but at some stage it will probably become obvious and it could get awkward when you can’t turn sideways near them, it could be a bit like a Monty Python skit. Generally people give about 10 weeks notice. Your particular organisation might have policies around when you need to disclose a pregnancy as it may not be a safe environment for a pregnant woman and you may need to be assigned a different role. It is a personal choice when to tell your employer and many mums consider when they provide this information if things like promotions and travel opportunities are on the cards, so there can be nothing that influences a decision-makers opinion. As soon as you are happy to let your colleagues know the news, go and get some advice from your human resources department or become familiar with your parental leave policies. These policies might offer you time off for appointments while pregnant.
4. You need to know about Parental Pay
In Australia the Government provides parental pay at the minimum wage of $641.05 for 18 weeks. You can take your payment before, during or after any paid or unpaid maternity or parental leave or other employer funded leave entitlements such as annual leave or long service leave. The scheme does not replace your employers parental leave, it is on top of it. You can claim as early as 3 months before your child’s expected due date of birth or adoption. As with all government benefits you need to think about it early and think about if it’s something that works for you. I have a friend who runs her own children’s photography business and she didn’t apply for Parental Pay as it doesn’t permit you to work another job while receiving payments. She figured out that taking 18 weeks out of her business would be detrimental for bookings and referrals. For more information visit the Australian Government’s website on Parental Leave Pay
5. When to start your maternity leave?
If a pregnant employee wants to work in the 6 weeks before her due date her employer can ask for a medical certificate within 7 days that states you are fit for work and it’s safe for you to do your normal job. With both babies I had easy pregnancies and worked up to 2 weeks before my due date. I just wanted a longer amount of time with baby but in that last week I did find it increasingly wobble around or to even sit at a desk with my ginormous bump. Your health may prevent you working towards the end of your pregnancy so give yourself enough leave to account for a few unforeseen days off. Find out about your entitlements at the Fair Work Ombudsman or speak to your Human Resources Advisor.
6. You need to invest in some comfortable work clothes
Luckily pregnancy clothes have got funky and more affordable thanks to online shopping. Your growing bump may need to be accommodated in a new wardrobe. ‘Likely story’ your partner says, even your shoe size may be affected by your pregnancy or you might decide to ditch the heels for a few months. This may also be required for a transition back to work. Your body shape may have changed post-baby, you might be expressing at work, you might feel different about yourself and how you used to dress. Pregnancy and babies can to amazing, strange and scary things to a woman’s view of herself. Last year we worked with 2 gorgeous stylist mums who have been there done that when it comes to returning to work. They’ve done a fabulous cheat sheet for all the wardrobe essentials you will need to get you back to work and feeling good about yourself: Styling Me
6. Can you negotiate a return to work date?
When you leave you generally give the employer an idea when you will be back. This may be open to some negotiation due to childcare access issues or a decision you have made to take more time at home with baby. Give an employer as much notice as you can. You may be able to work from home, do flexible hours, breastfeed at lunch time if you have on-site childcare. This information may not be readily supplied by your manager so you may have to look for the information in your human resources policies or speak to your H.R. advisor.
7. Keep in touch when you are on Maternity Leave
Depending on your workplace I would recommend sending a picture of bub when he or she is born, dropping in when you are feeling normal again (actually do we ever feel normal again?) Keeping in touch with colleagues can be a great way of keeping abreast of any changes in staff, clients, services or delivery. Being aware of what has been going on during your maternity/paternity leave can be important in your transition back into the work place. Sometimes taking 18months off can be a long time in an organisation and women often return to work feeling it is just like starting a new job all over again. At least before you go back to work, discuss with your terms of returning to work, seating arrangements, changes to work patterns and expectations. Anything that makes you feel more comfortable about getting back into the swing of things.
8. What’s your childcare plan B?
If your return to work date is approaching fast and you haven’t got childcare what are you going to do? My mum helped out for 3 months when I didn’t secure childcare. I didn’t realise finding childcare would be so difficult. Would you consider employing an au pair or nanny? What is your budget? Can you extend your leave using up other leave, such as annual leave? Try not to be pushed into this situation. You need to choose childcare that feels right for you. Go with the gut! You actually may even experience the opposite where you are offered a childcare place before you need to go back to work so you have to consider returning earlier as you are paying for childcare. The key is to be flexible with yourself and your plans. Unless you are directly employing a nanny or au pair, as parents we relinquish much of our control about choosing childcare to childcare centre directors and family daycare educators. Some parents develop a strategy to get to know the childcare centre director. You have to do what works for you!
9. I don’t like my job, I want out!
You may feel differently about work and be considering your options and that’s ok. Birth is a major transitional point in a woman’s life and it’s ok to stop and think about who you are? Where you are going? What kind of parent you want to be? No matter how long you have taken out from the workforce it can be extremely daunting to get back into it. My Reinventing Yourself in the Workforce is a handy 5 tip guide to get your moving in the right direction.
10. Prepare for your return to work
Don’t be shocked at the presumptions about your capabilities whether implied or other by your colleagues or your employer. Get used to being judged and take it on the chin. Speak up, build your network and your confidence and build and create your own opportunities. Understand that the transition may be difficult. Leaving your first born child in the care of someone else, whether its family or a child care worker can generate a range of emotions from joy and relief through to guilt and anxiousness. Getting your childcare right and beginning it before you return to work is crucial to an easier transition back to work. If you want to read the real story of my return from maternity leave, it will give you an insight into If you don’t have a good feeling about where you are leaving your child then do something about it. The stress and anxiety moves with you to work, in your relationships with your partner and through to your other children (if you have any others).
This post is written for my lovely work colleague with two step daughters and a bub on the way. The excitement in her eyes despite the constant nausea reminds me of the intangible gifts babies bring not only to parents, but to their wider family and passing strangers. This ones for you Krista x