In Canada, new mothers are entitled to 17 weeks maternity leave and up to 35 weeks parental leave (Canadian government has plans to extend leave up to an optional 61 weeks of parental leave at a lower rate). Mothers who do not take maternity leave and all other new parents are entitled to up to 37 weeks parental leave. Employees on leave have the right to continue participation in certain benefit plans, continue credit for length of employment, service and seniority. In most cases, employee must be given their old job back at the end of pregnancy or parental leave.
This is a significant amount of time to be away from the workplace, and not without its challenges. Here are some tips for parents returning to work after pregnancy and/or parental leave:
1. Speak with your manager: Well before you are expected to return to work, schedule a visit or phone call with your manager to review any changes that have occurred within the company, your position and any adjustments that have been made to your role and discuss the possibility of flexible work arrangements.
2. Trial run: Whatever your daycare arrangements will be, it is best to start getting on your daycare/work schedule a couple weeks before you head back to work. This will help ensure your first days back at work have reduced stress and your child will be accustomed to the routine.
3. Plan meals: Your schedule is about to get more hectic and may require more planning when it comes to meals and logistics. If you don’t already, start planning meals the week before.
4. Make sleep a priority: Your first week back will be draining no matter how prepared you are. Try to go to bed as early as possible each evening.
5. Allow for personal time if possible at home and take scheduled breaks at work. Learning to balance a new life with a baby at home and working full-time is a challenge, so give yourself time to turn off and recharge.
Setting clear expectations and boundaries in addition to organization will be key to advancing your career and maintaining mental focus when returning to work after parental leave. There will be times when your personal life encroaches on your professional life (daycare called due to a sick child!) but try to keep your work life and personal life compartmentalized if possible. Try not to look at work emails until after the kids are in bed in the evenings, for example.