When you’re a working parent, you might like to consider family-friendly work options like part-time or flexible hours, working from home and job-sharing. It’s a good idea to discuss these options with your employer as early as you can, perhaps even before baby arrives.

Returning to work: family-friendly work options

If you’ve taken time off to care for a new baby, you might be thinking about returning to work at some stage. Returning to work can help you reconnect with people and activities outside home, ease financial pressure, and add variety to your daily routines.

When it comes to your work arrangements, try to look at all your work options and find what’s right for you. It doesn’t matter what your friends do or what other people think you should do – choose the option that’s best for your family.

If you’re planning to return to work, it’s worth thinking about child care as early as possible, perhaps even just before or after your baby arrives. This is because most centres and services have waiting lists, especially for children under two years.

Checking family-friendly work options in your workplace

Try to find out early what family-friendly policies your employer has in place. What options are included in your workplace agreement?

Some things covered by workplace agreements include the following:

  • Pregnancy and work: there might be flexibility for women who are preparing to give birth.
  • Working from home (or telecommuting): depending on your job, you might be able to do this some or all of the time.
  • Job-sharing, which is sharing your job with another part-time employee: perhaps you know of someone who would consider doing this with you.
  • Regular part-time work: many working parents look at this option.
  • Parental leave: check what arrangements your workplace has for parental leave. Australia introduced a paid parental leave scheme from 1 January 2011 and Dad and Partner Pay from 1 January 2013.
  • A child care service connected with your workplace: this can make it easier to balance work and child care.
  • Carers leave: this is leave for employees to care for a sick child or loved one. Children get sick all the time, so you’ll need to use carers leave at some stage.
  • Flexible work hours: for example, you might be able to arrive late and work late, or work longer hours for four days rather than working five days a week.
If you’re a breastfeeding mum returning to work, your right to breastfeed in your workplace without discrimination is protected under the Sex Discrimination Act.

Starting back at work: family-friendly tips

Here are some things to consider to make the first few months back at work easier:

  • Can you ask for flexible start and finish times?
  • Can you organise to work part-time for the first week or two after going back to work?
  • What about meetings and other commitments outside of normal working hours? Can you set limits on working out of hours?
  • If you want to breastfeed while working, what are your employer’s policies and facilities?
  • Would it make sense to change shifts to a time when your partner can be at home to care for your child?

Talking to your employer about family-friendly work options

You might feel a bit nervous about asking your employer or manager for family-friendly arrangements. Here are a few ideas to help you out.

Think about exactly what you want. Then think about it from your manager’s point of view – does it seem practical? Try to come up with some reasons your suggestion is good for the business as well as for you. Consider any problems your boss might have with your idea, and try to think of solutions.

Other people at your work might have flexible arrangements. Try talking to your workmates about how it’s working and how they handled it with their managers. If their arrangements are working out well, you could talk to their managers about the best ways to approach yours.

If you’re a member of a union, your union might have suggestions for you.

Try to approach negotiations calmly. If you’re very nervous or think you might get defensive or angry, think about writing to your manager first, instead of arranging a meeting.

Ask for a little more than you want. Leave yourself space to be negotiated down.

When you go back to work after having your baby, you might choose a work option that suits your family well now. You can always make changes as your family’s needs change.

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Last updated or reviewed
12-12-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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