By Raising Children Network
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did you knowQuestion mark symbol

  • In Australia, 60% of single mothers with children aged 0-14 years participate in the workforce.
  • Approximately 66% of mothers in couple families with dependent children aged 0-14 years participate in the workforce.
  • In about 5% of couple families, mum is the sole breadwinner.
When you're a working parent, you might like to consider family-friendly work options such as 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

Once you’ve looked into family-friendly work options, it’s worth getting started with child care – for example, looking into child care types and child care costs and government assistance. It might be a while before you need these, but it’s worth thinking about, because most centres have waiting lists. When will you need child care? Is it available locally? Does it make sense financially?

Organising things at work

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) some or all of the time: if you have the kind of job where you work on a computer and can keep in contact with the office by email, this can be a great way of working. Of course, if you drive a crane or work on a supermarket checkout, it’s not an option.
  • Job-sharing with a similarly qualified and capable 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. You might like to check with the Family Assistance Office to see whether you’re eligible.
  • Work-based arrangements for child care, or even a child care service connected with your workplace: this can make it easier to balance work and child care. 
  • Carers leave: this is days allowed 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 vice versa, or work longer hours for four days rather than five days of the 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

Here are some family-friendly ideas 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?
  • Do your workmates or friends know of any local child care and school holiday care options?
  • 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 boss about family-friendly work options

You might feel a bit nervous about asking your boss for flexible arrangements. Here are a few ideas to help you out.

    Think about exactly what it is 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 what they proposed to their boss. If their arrangements are working out well, you could talk to their boss about the best ways to approach your manager.

        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 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.
              • Last updated or reviewed 03-12-2014