Is there really an ideal amount of maternity leave to take and could your career suffer if you choose to extend your time off work?

Knowing how much maternity leave to take can be a difficult decision for many pregnant women and the decision can often change after your baby is born. Experts say that six months of maternity leave gives women the ideal amount of time to bond with their baby, but an increasing number of mums are choosing to stay off work for an extended period.

A Personal Choice

Determining the length of your maternity leave requires the consideration of a number of factors, including your financial position, the nature of your job and, most importantly, what you feel is best for you and your baby. Despite this, many mums are feeling pressure to return to work sooner than expected. This is often due to worry about the impact that extended time off can have on their career progression and job security.  In Australia, parents are entitled to parental leave pay from the government for a maximum of 18 weeks, in addition to any parental leave entitlement available through their employer. Many mums, however, prefer to extend their time off, with 32 weeks the average amount of maternity leave taken by women according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Keeping A Balance

Speaking to news.com.au, mum of two and small business owner Sandra Hudson said she struggled with going back to work after the birth of her first child. “The first time…I had a week off, then went back to work for three weeks, then had about six weeks off, then back full time,” she said. “I was very career driven…four years later, I was a bit wiser and took a full six months.” Sadly, nearly a third of women experience maternity leave discrimination, and a quarter of those mums who chose to take leave were made redundant or did not have their contract renewed the ABC reports. It is important to note that all permanent employees are given a ‘return to work guarantee’ if they have given notice of their intention to take unpaid leave, so it is worth investigating your rights should you feel unfairly treated.

Making time to have a conversation with your boss about your need to take maternity leave can be a daunting prospect, but it’s important to remember to give plenty of notice, be honest about how much leave you intend to take, and ensure your employer is aware that this could change after your baby is born.

Did you experience maternity leave discrimination? Share your story in the comments.

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  • Each to their own I say. When I fell pregnant I knew I wanted to try and take 12 months off and honestly, it changes every day depending on the mood of my daughter haha. I know I need to go back to work soon financially, but I just don’t want to and I am not putting pressure on myself to do it because other people did at a certain time.


  • With my first I went back after 18wks but then with my 2nd I didn’t go back at all.


  • Take what they pay you for if your lucky then it depends on your circumstances. I took 6 weeks paid and 6 weeks annual leave and was back at work as I couldn’t afford any longer


  • I’m a stay at home mum and never made the decision to return to work, instead we decided to foster and be there for the children. We can’t give our children too much attention.


  • I’m lucky I didn’t have to make that decision. Stay at home mum when I was married, and single with my third and on disability.


  • 18 weeks is just too short I feel


  • I won’t go back until my second baby is at school. My company couldn’t promise me reduced hours and I didn’t want to be away from my child so I resigned.


  • I am currently off since 2016, I figured if I went back to work after 12m I would basically paying for childcare and not seeing my Daughter as I worked in the city. After having my son in 2018 I have since decided to start looking for work locally and only 2-3 days a week.


  • Every family and situation is different. There is no one type suits all solution for maternity leave.


  • Every family is different, everyones situation at work is different! I don’t think you can put a blanket amount of time on it. I had 14 months paid as I used up my long service leave too, and itr was the best thing I could have done for my family, but that won’t work for everyone


  • I was made redundant while on maternity leave so haven’t made it back to work between babies.


  • I think if you only plan on taking 6 weeks before you go back to work full time you should probably consider why you’re having a baby. But it really is different for everyone.


  • I was sacked from my job when I told them I was pregnant! In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how much maternity leave you have, it’s never enough. That’s thinking of mum and baby. In terms of career, time off could be detrimental, but shouldn’t be

    • I agree !
      No way you were sacked when you told them you were pregnant !


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