Make the transition to becoming a mum or dad easier with our tips for taking your parental leave.
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Are you expecting a happy addition to your family and planning those crucial next steps to taking time off from your busy arts career?
As an employee you can receive several forms of parental leave – maternity leave, paternity and partner leave, or adoption leave. But before you unplug from your work world and lean in to your family, there are a few things to consider to ensure your parental leave isn’t disturbed by any loose ends left on your desk.
1. Plan your exit strategy
Have you thought about how long you want to take off work? Under the Australian law employees who are the primary caregivers of a new child are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave, and can also request an additional 12 months of leave.
Do you know when your child is expected to be in your care? If you are the mother of a newborn it’s your personal choice when to finish up work before your due date. An eligible working dad or partner is entitled to 2 weeks of government-funded pay. Dad and Partner Pay can be used any time in the first year after the child’s birth or adoption, though many parents opt to take it when a child first arrives. You may want to discuss with your partner how care could be shared and how you can both use your entitlements.
Once you know when you are likely to finish work and how much time off you are comfortable taking, sit down with your employer and let them know. Open dialogue is essential and lets your employer know you have your return in mind.
2. Think about your return before you leave
If you are passionate about the arts, then work itself can often be a highlight of your life. If you already know you will be keen to get back to work, think about your return before you leave.
Are there options of flexitime, working from home or job-sharing that can be established upon your return? Asking the right questions of your employer now can make your return to work smoother.
3. Take time creating handover documents
The handover process can be stressful if you aren’t well prepared. Whether your employer is hiring relief staff or another team member is taking over your duties temporarily, make sure you leave clear written instructions for this person.
Ask yourself: what are my day-to-day duties? And what are the big-picture plans I’m involved in that may need attention while I’m gone?
The minutiae of your role is as important as the big deliverables so over-share and make no assumptions. Any work you do now might mean one less phonecall during your maternity leave or one less complication when you return.
4. Are there work benefits you can receive?
If your employer has established its own parental policies that are outside of the government initiatives, then think about how you can utilise them. The Fair Work Ombudsman policies have been put in place to ensure ‘valuable members of staff are attracted, retained and feel appreciated’.
You should read over your contract and any other relevant company policies to understand your entitlements. If you are unsure where to find this information speak with your employer directly or visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website for guidance.
5. Become familiar with myGov.com
Finances should be the last thing on your mind during your time at home with your little one, so plan your income now. While you are on leave you, and if you meet the eligibility requirements, you are entitled to a Parental Leave Payment from the Australian Government.
To save time you can complete an online pre-claim form that is accessed through a myGov account linked to Centrelink. If you don’t have a myGov account or a Centrelink account you’ll need to set one up. Block yourself out some time to create your account and complete your claim as this may take a little while.
6. Keep an eye on your health and don’t be afraid to finish early
Every pregnancy or adoption process is different and unexpected developments can occur. Keep your mental and physical wellbeing at the forefront of your mind.
Don’t be afraid to finish work earlier than planned if necessary. Your health is important and this is the time to listen to your body when it is telling you to take it easy.
7. Stay in the loop while you’re away
A recent HuffPost Australia article revealed that in an average lifetime a person will spend ‘13 years and two months at work.’ That’s a whole lot of time spent with your work colleagues who inevitably become as close to you as your own family.
Make sure you keep these connections strong. Your work tribe will keep you in the loop of big happenings at the workplace and be welcome adult conversation.