Tips to ease your return to work after maternity leave

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Returning to work after maternity leave is a big step for many new parents. In Australia, you're entitled to 12 months of maternity leave, and if needed, you can negotiate an extra 12 months with your employer.

Time can slip away during this period, so we've put together a checklist to help you ease your return to work, covering tasks to tackle 30 days and one week before your return. As you embark on this journey, don't forget to be kind to yourself!

1. Plan your transition into work after maternity leave 

Returning to work after maternity leave might feel like a lot to handle at first, but planning for your transition might help make things easier. Here are some practical tips to help you through the process and get you ready for a smoother return to work. 

30 Days before returning to work

  • Schedule personal appointments and self-care activities. We get that time can slip away when you're busy caring for your newborn. Planning these appointments ahead of time can save you the hassle of scrambling to find availability at the last minute.
  • Revamp your work wardrobe with comfortable yet professional outfits, depending on your type of work.

1 week before returning to work

  • Plan a "pretend work morning" routine. Get ready, drop your child off at daycare, and pretend to travel to work. This hands-on approach helps identify potential hiccups and allows you to fine-tune your routine so you can feel confident and in control when you return to work.
  • Get the help of a friend or family member to play the role of your employer. Conduct a mock meeting to simulate work-related discussions.
  • Dedicate time each week to reflect on your goals and how they align with your evolving priorities as a mother. 
  • Master meal prepping for efficient weeknight dinners.

2. Prioritise your well-being as you adjust to work after maternity leave

Taking care of your emotions is important as you go back to work in a different stage of life. It might feel overwhelming at first, so here are some ways to support yourself during this time. 

30 days before returning to work

  • Choose specific times for self-care activities, such as morning meditation or an evening walk. Communicate these boundaries clearly to your support systems, ensuring that your well-being remains a priority.
  • Boost your resilience by keeping a "positive moments" journal. Each day, jot down small victories and joys, fostering gratitude and a positive mindset.
  • Reach out to your support systems with any concerns or questions you may have for going back to work. 
  • Explore local resources and communities for additional emotional support.

1 week before returning to work

  • Consider connecting with other new mums navigating similar transitions. Building these connections can offer valuable insights and mutual support. Or for something more flexible you could also join parenting Facebook groups! 
  • Dedicate time to relax and mentally prepare for the transition.

For additional help consider bookmarking the PANDA National Helpline  website for quick access to resources and support whenever you may need it.

3. Organise your finances before returning to work

As you adjust to the additional expenses of raising a child, managing your finances can help you prepare for any unexpected costs and emergencies.

30 days before returning to work

  • Set a budget and specific saving goals aligned with your new routine. You could try Beforepay’s budgeting tool in the Beforepay app for a quick and easy way to help you get started. 
  • Create a separate savings account for childcare expenses. Allocate a fixed amount each month to build a dedicated fund.

1 week before returning

4. Boost your professional confidence

Building your work confidence can positively influence job performance. When you feel self-assured you are more likely to take initiative, make decisions and handle challenges effectively. 

30 days before returning to work

  • Subscribe to industry-specific podcasts for easy listening during your commute or downtime.
  • Send friendly messages to former colleagues expressing excitement about your return.

1 week before returning to work

  • Schedule virtual coffee catch-ups with former colleagues, focusing on building personal connections before diving into work-related discussions.
  • Join professional forums or LinkedIn groups to engage in industry conversations and expand your network.
  • Brush up on any skills that may have dulled during your absence.

Access a variety of courses on LinkedIn Learning to refresh and enhance your skills.

5. Develop your communication strategies

Developing communication strategies allows you to negotiate and communicate your needs to achieve a work-life balance. This can involve discussions about flexible work arrangements, childcare support, or any other accommodations that may be necessary.

30 days before returning to work

  • Seek advice from a mentor or HR professional on crafting a persuasive proposal for flexible work arrangements. Incorporate their feedback to strengthen your case. You can use the Fair Work Ombudsman to check your rights as an employee and additional support resources. Consider using their templates and guidelines for how to request flexible work arrangements. 
  • Identify potential objections your employer might have and proactively address them in your communication. This shows foresight and helps build a more compelling case.

1 week before returning to work

  • Conduct a mock discussion with a friend or family member, anticipating potential questions and practising your responses.

For more information and resources check out these websites:

By incorporating these additional tips and using the available resources, you'll not only navigate the challenges with more support but also come out stronger. You're not alone— you've got this!

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