Returning to work
Many women in New Zealand are faced with 12 months maternity leave, without the financial freedom to take much more. Thankfully, paid parental leave has become a reality in this country. Eligible parents will be paid 14 weeks pay although a maximum level of payment is set by the Department of Labour. For more information regarding Maternity Leave entitlements refer to the Department of Labour .
When you're pregnant 12 months maternity leave can seem like a lifetime, but once you have your baby, you'll be surprised at how quickly time flies and you need to be back at work. Make sure you fully understand your company’s maternity leave policy beyond what you’ve previously arranged. If you're a valued long-term employee you'll be surprised at what your employer may be able to arrange if it means keeping you on. It can be possible to take a further 12 months leave if you apply in writing at least four weeks before your maternity leave is due to end. If you need more time, call your boss to discuss taking more short-term disability, holiday, sick or personal time. Of course you might want to save some for sick days and doctor’s visits, but an extra week or two can make a world of difference.
If your financial situation allows, the law requires most employers to hold your job for up to 12 months, unpaid, while you’re on maternity leave. However, check with your company’s policies if you find you simply can't go back at the end of the 12 month period and put any requests in writing well ahead of time.
Switching from breast to bottle
Before returning to work, gradually introduce a bottle over the course of at least two weeks if possible, whether it’s with formula or expressed breast milk. You might also want to consider continuing to breastfeed your baby at night until you're ready to wean.
Practice using your breast pump, if you will be doing so on the job. Also, check with your employer that you’ll be afforded a private area with an electrical outlet. (Unfortunately many companies might stick you in the bathroom during lunch.)
If you have an exceptionally understanding boss, talk to him or her about possible alternative work situations. Of course you might not have this kind of leverage if you’re a newcomer to the company, but employers are beginning to be more flexible to accommodate working parents.
Ask about telecommuting. Because so much of today’s work is done electronically, there might be a portion of your job that you can do from home, even if it’s only for a couple of days. Of course it won’t be easy to balance working from home and a newborn’s schedule, but the flexible hours are better than a standard 9 to 5.
Perhaps you can arrange a compressed workweek. For those willing to put in the extra hours, you can cram a 40-hour workweek into four days if you work 10 hours a day.
If your boss is willing to work with your schedule, perhaps you can arrange a different schedule that works better with your life. Instead of coming in at 9am and working until 5pm, maybe you can work a couple of half-days along with some weekend hours.
If there’s another parent in the company (which there probably is), see if the two of you can share hours. Of course you’ll be working for less of a salary, but your boss can have two valuable part-time workers do the job of one full-time employee, at no extra cost.
If your job requires a lot of business travel, see if you can bring your baby on the job. Even if you have to hire a babysitter to bring along, at least you’ll physically be near your baby.
Written by Linda Drummond for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading pregnancy and parenting resource.