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How to Effectively Navigate Maternity Leave Career Transitions


By Avra Davidoff, M.C., R. Psych.

A maternity leave is a transition experienced by many women. This transition is often a critical turning point for the family, the individual, and one’s career. However, less common is the focus on how it impacts career development. If you are anticipating a maternity leave or are in the midst of one, here are some tips and strategies to help you cope with the change process.



• Prepare for the disclosure: Take time to gather information so you feel prepared to have an informed discussion with your employer. You may want to explore:
1. Your employer’s policies regarding maternity leave.
2. Your legal rights (e.g., how much notice you need to provide).
3. Your career goals and aspirations, including your values and needs.
4. Your manager’s likely concerns and ideas you have for addressing them.
5. Options for flexible work.
6. How and when you would like your news shared with others.

• Communicate your needs: You have a legal right to ask for temporary accommodations and a responsibility to explain to your employer what kind of assistance you require. Modifications may be physical, environmental, or in regards to greater flexibility to your schedule.

• Establish a communication plan: Determine how much communication is appropriate while on leave. Talk to your employer about how often updates will be given, and how communication will be maintained (e.g., telephone, e-mail).



• Engage in professional and/or personal development: Whether you take part in a training seminar, pursue career counselling, or meet with friends, connecting with others can enhance your competence and confidence.

• Maintain the communication plan: This plan generally allows for two-way communication that invites you to check in with your employer about work and other topics. If the communication plan requires changes, be sure to discuss this.



• Set up a return to work interview: When you return, there may be changes to your role, responsibilities, and other aspects of the workplace. A dialogue with your employer will allow both of you to clearly communicate and negotiate expectations.

• Take part in a re-onboarding process: Discuss with your employer re-onboarding and re-integration options, not only into your work role, but also into the office social environment.

• Discuss flexible work arrangements: Whether you gradually return or implement other arrangements, flexibility creates room for integration between work and family life. As a mother, better integration allows you to be more effective in both roles.

Remember, just like your behaviours and interactions change with the age and stage of your child, your career also requires adaptation. The importance of your career relative to other aspects of life may change over time. Reflect on and identify how this transition impacts your priorities and take actions that make sense for you.

For more tips and strategies on how to navigate your maternity leave, download the free PDF Making It Work! How to Effectively Navigate Maternity Leave Career Transitions: An Employee’s Guide or purchase the book from Amazon or Chapters and Indigo.

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