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.
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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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