Welcoming a new baby into the family is often an exciting and emotional time for new parents. It is also a significant life transition.

This phase of life may bring to mind images of parents decorating baby rooms and choosing baby names, but another crucial thing to consider is maternity leave career planning. Though this may not be the most popular topic of parenting books, it is still an important consideration.

Bringing a child into your life has both personal and professional impacts. Since 73% of mothers report working in either a part-time or full-time capacity (Statistics Canada, 2010), career planning is a crucial piece of the parenting transition.

Maternity leave career planning is influenced by a number of factors, including how supportive your current employer is. For example, 3 years of national research conducted by Canada Career Counselling, funded by The Canadian Education Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC), found a startling disconnect between how well employers think they are doing and what working mothers perceive. Specifically, over 38% of the women who participated in the study felt that maternity leave had a negative impact on promotional and career development opportunities, yet only 15% of employers thought that it had a negative impact.

So, what can you do to make this transition go as smoothly as possible for you? Even if your employer is not familiar with maternity leave career planning, the good news is that there are many strategies that you can initiate to optimize your maternity leave career transition. Below is a summary of a few described in the employer guide titled Making It Work: How to effectively manage maternity leave career transitions:

1. Create a Communication Plan: Prior to going on maternity leave, let your employer know what your communication preferences are while you’re away and document this communication plan. It may be helpful to keep in touch with your employer periodically during this time so that you can maintain your relationship and know what is going on with the business.

2. Develop a Return to Work Plan: Having a return to work plan in place can ensure that both you and your employer know what to expect. Important details to discuss are the date of return, desired support with reintegration into the workforce, roles and responsibilities, work schedule, and career options upon returning.

3. Schedule a Return to Work Meeting: Have a dialogue with your manager about any changes in roles and responsibilities that have occurred. Let your supervisor know what your career aspirations and plans are. Also, share how you envision continuing to add value to the organization.

4. If you would like a resource for maternity leave career planning, you can refer to our practical, user-friendly guide titled Making It Work! How to Effectively Navigate Maternity Leave Career Transitions: An Employee’s Guide and available at this link.

Making It Work!

I hope that these ideas are helpful and wish you all the best for your maternity leave career transition. Don’t hesitate to call Canada Career Counselling if you would like to meet with us for some additional support!

Michelle Sande
Registered Provisional Psychologist
Canada Career Counselling

References

Davidoff, A., Hambley, L., Dyrdra, A., Choi, J., Lucas, C., & Teebay-Webb, R. (2016). Making It Work:
How to effectively manage maternity leave career transitions: An employer’s guide. Toronto, ON: Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC).

Statistics Canada. (2010). Women in Canada: Paid Work, 1976-2009. Retrieved from:
http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/101209/dq101209a-eng.htm