Returning to work after parental leave

In response to the AFR Legal Affairs articles on Friday, 5 July 2019 about Gender Parity in the legal professional I thought I’d share some practical tips for those returning to work from parental leave.

Working days.  In my experience the proverbial poo always hits the fan on a Friday. Proposals are due and final deliverables are generally required on Fridays. Friday night drinks are also a great opportunity to connect with colleagues. You need to be remembered as being around when the dramas and fun happens. When you think about which days to be in the office, bear in mind which days fit the drama and fun criteria.

Salary. Depending on the timing of salary decisions (Generally salary increases in the UK are effective 1 April and Australia 1 July), have you thought about how your parental leave will affect your salary? If possible, you want a salary increase before you go on leave. Depending on the organisation and how they calculate annual salaries sometime they work on a “how long have they been here working for” – tenure rather than actual effort. To counter this having an agreed plan with realistic KPIs for your first six and 12 months back at work can help here. It’s essentially your “this is what you promised and we agreed to” plan for the type of work you want to do as well as any salary increase you expect.

Clients. Can you choose which ones to keep, and do you want to stay in touch with them while you are on parental leave? Think about which ones would be high profile, interesting and don’t require huge amounts of travel time so that you don’t have to travel too far to see them when you come back from parental leave.

CPD. The good old continuous professional development….Do you have requirements to keep up with your continuous professional development? This is something that can be difficult to manage. Having a plan is a good thing to do here. Most professional bodies have concessions for those that aren’t working for the entire year. Discuss with your Partners about how to best ensure you are compliant.

Your replacement. Can you help to choose who this person is? If so, keep in touch with them while you are on leave. Check-ins here and there will help you and them feel connected. The challenge is not looking like you think they are stealing your job…

Childcare. Think about this early. What’s your plan? How are you and your partner going to manage this? Who can help? Have you thought about how many (and which) days you want to work on your return? Two of my good friends also said that it is important to articulate to those that help with childcare what is important to you. For example, my friend doesn’t want her children to be bought plastic toys that are quickly discarded and has made this clear to those that help her with childcare. It hasn’t always worked but she will keen persevering!

Get yourself a mentor. Most companies have in-house mentoring programmes. If not, get in touch with someone that you admire and that you think can help you with your transition back to work. Just ask – most (nice) people are more than happy to help.

Get yourself a sponsor. This one can be a bit trickier than finding a mentor.  Generally your sponsor may work in the same company as your or in an organisation where you want to work and will help you move into that new position. This requires you to have a good understanding about what you would like your career to look like and a frank conversation with the sponsor you have in mind.

If you would like to talk in more detail about strategies to help members of your team return to work, or strategies for your own return to work please get in touch.

Ali Local +61 (0) 404 111 745 or


Share this

Like what your reading?

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, which provides analysis on the current trends and events shaping HR strategy around the world.