Make the return-to-work after pregnancy a win-win for you and the boss

Make the return-to-work after pregnancy a win-win for you and the boss

After an extended period of maternity leave, you’ll probably be keen to get back to work and given the added costs of childcare, the sooner the better. The trouble is that despite their best intentions, many employers assume that new mothers returning to work need to be segued gently back into the workplace with ‘easy’ and less challenging jobs, when the opposite is probably true.

Given that new mothers are keen to pick up from where they left off in the workplace, Diane Jurgens chief technology officer at BHP urges employers to allow them to continue their careers without being disadvantaged. However, according to the latest National Review by the Australian Human Rights Commission, discrimination related to pregnancy, parental leave and return-to-work after parental leave remains a significant issue for Australian women.

For example, almost half (49%) of all mothers surveyed reported workplace discrimination while pregnant, on leave or returning to work from parental leave.

Almost one in five (18%) mothers reported that they were made redundant, restructured, dismissed or their contract was not renewed either during their pregnancy, when they requested or took parental leave or when they returned to work.

Unsurprisingly, nearly a third (32%) who were discriminated against resigned or sought a new job.

One of the misnomers identified by the recent studies is the notion that women who want greater flexibility around ‘how’ they work post-pregnancy, are in some way less committed employees, and less ambitious about their own career advancement. In most cases, Jurgens argues that nothing could be further from the truth.

To alleviate these issues before taking maternity leave, it might pay to approach your boss with any requests for flexibility around how and where you work once you return to the office/workplace. Remember, you’re not alone in having to address these issues.

For example, the Australian Human Rights found that 35 percent of men and women returning to work part-time stated that the lack of suitable childcare prevented them from working full-time after parental leave. Then there were 22 percent who reported that the availability of flexible options was important in their choice to return to work.

Here are some considerations that you may wish to discuss.

1)    The impact of childcare on your ability to work fulltime and/or be available after hours for functions/meetings etc: Adding to the spiralling cost of childcare, it’s not everybody who has a family support network to fall back on. As a result, discuss the options for working different hours or working a three or four-day week, and find out what the official company policy is on this, assuming there is one.

2)    Flexible working hours isn’t a strange request: According to a Bain and Company research, more than 75 percent of men and women are interested in having workplace flexibility.

3)    Partner support: Given that childcare is a joint expense shared by a couple, see if your partner is able to share the responsibility of drop offs, pick-ups and if possible request flexible working hours too.

4)    Bringing baby to work: Is there any way you could successfully bring baby into the office/workplace. If you’re not the only employee with very young children/infants,  would the company benefit from greater productivity by having a crèche onsite?

5)    Trial run: See if the boss is willing to try out some flexible workplace options and/or test run a crèche onsite to see how it works.

6)    Working remotely: Depending on the type of work you do, working from home might be an option, especially if you can prove that doing so would make you considerably more productive.

You may want to read