Consider this the career version of “what to expect when you’re expecting”. Compiled by the empowering lady bosses at Circle In, this comprehensive guide is the ultimate resource for working mothers. It covers everything and anything you need to know before you clock off and venture into the land of sleepless nights and reflux.

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant:

  • Check out your organisation’s parental leave policy.  Specifically look at eligibility, types of leave available and paid parental leave (if any.) If you are unsure, do not be afraid to reach out to your HR department to clarify questions you may have.  All conversations with HR must be kept confidential by your HR  team.


How to secretly find out about your organisation’s parental leave policy.

The facts about parental leave.

12 weeks: 

  • Inform your manager that you are pregnant. Some people may decide to have this conversation earlier, but this is a personal decision and depends on the relationship you have with your manager. This is an opportunity to have an open and honest discussion about expectations of managing your pregnancy. Specifically, we suggest discussing your pre-natal appointments and any possible sickness. It is also important to point out any health and safety concerns if any.
  • Email your manager post meeting to thank them and confirm your discussion.
  • Discuss your planned pre-natal appointments with your manager and team members.


How to tell your manager you are pregnant 

Sample conversation guide and email templates

Juggling leave for illness and pre-natal appointments 

13 weeks:

  • Communicate your news! Consider how you might like to advise your stakeholders, team members, colleagues, internal and external contacts.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Commonwealth Government Paid Parental Leave Scheme. It can be overwhelming so we have broken it down for you and you can find an easy to understand outline here.
  • Start to think about how you wish to take your leave and your estimated planned leave date.
  • Ensure you are working safely.
  • If you’re part of a union, a consultant, a part-time or contract worker, find out what policies or entitlements you can access. The Fair Work Ombudsman website has great resources to help you with every question you may have.


Are you working safely during pregnancy.

15 weeks: 

  • Start a folder on your work computer and store everything pregnancy related: emails, documents, policies. This will make life easier in your last few weeks.

16 weeks:

  • Begin creating your parental leave plan.
  • Let your manager know that you are working on a parental leave plan and that you will share it with them closer to your leave date. Trust us, they will love your pro-activeness.

20 weeks:

  • Start to consider your financial needs and requirements given your changing family situation.


How to protect and build super as a working mama

Becoming financially fit females

24 weeks:

  • Continue your parental leave plan. Sounds early, but why not start the template and add to it as you think of things.
  • If you want to retain your computer, ask your IT department about working from home during parental leave.
  • Try find another mama who as recently returned and build a good a good relationship with her. This is a great chance to get a buddy and have someone in the office whilst on leave to ask all those practical questions.


Parental leave plan template

The importance of buddies when you leave the office

28 weeks:

  • Apply for the Paid Parental Leave Scheme. This can be completed three months before the birth of the child so we suggest getting this sorted before the chaos of those last few weeks.
  • Gain an understanding of the Child Care Rebate and Child Care Benefit.


How to claim your government paid parental leave

Breaking down the Childcare Benefit and Child Care Rebate

30 weeks:

  • Formally request parental leave from your employer. This includes a start and return date. You can find some great templates online at Circle In.
  • Set up individual meetings with your direct reports/peers before your parental leave begins. This is a chance to share your leave plan, discuss your expectations and clarify any concerns or issues.
  • Spend time understanding which HR forms (if any) need to be completed. Do you need to input your leave into your people management system etc?
  • Understand what happens to your other leave entitlements (i.e. annual) and super whilst on leave.
  • Spend 30 minutes working on your keeping in touch plan.
  • Understand if your organisation offers any childcare support and if not, has relationships with any centres close by. This can help get you on the priority waiting list! It might even be worth talking with other mamas to see what their routine looks like.
  • Keep working on your parental leave plan as you never know when your bub could arrive.
  • We also highly recommend reading What I wish I’d known before I went on parental leave.


What to do when you have to start parental leave early?

Employee request to take parental leave template

Keeping in touch plan

32 – 34 weeks: 

  • Formally meet with your manager. Be sure to read our article which details everything you need to cover.
  • Keep working on your parental leave plan.
  • Print out your contact list. You will love having this at home whilst on leave.
  • Continue preparing your stay in touch plan. If you need reminding of why it’s important to keep in touch, then be sure to check out our article here.
  • Familiarise yourself with ‘keeping in touch days’. You are eligible to be paid for up to 10 working days during your parent leave.


Preparing for the final conversation with your manager

Keeping in touch plan

Do you know the difference between mentors and sponsors?

A great trade secret – Keeping in Touch days

34 weeks:

Only two to three weeks left!

  • Write a list of everything you need to think about before you leave.
  • Keep working on your handover document.
  • Update your contact details in the company portal/intranet and with the HR department.
  • Print off our list of go to websites.
  • Using your keep in touch plan, contact your professional contacts to advise them that you are about to begin parental leave. We recommend a personal email and refraining from group emails. You can cut and copy your email to save time.
  • If you have a replacement, schedule ample time to spend with them on your handover and introducing them to your contacts. If you do have the luxury of time, in the later weeks before you leave, try to let your replacement “run” things and use you as a support person. This will help them get well into the swing of things before you actually leave.
  • Find out if your organisation has a support network for new mums. If not, you can think about creating one on your return.
  • Think about who from work you will contact once your baby arrives. Getting the distribution list ready for the arrival announcement is stressful, so think about the best way to manage and co-ordinate this. You may decide to tell one person who will share your news with everyone? Others may set up a “work” distribution list on their phone.
  • Ensure you have conducted your performance review with your manager and taken them through your parental leave plan and handover document.
  • Organise subscriptions to relevant online journals, newsletters and updates from your home email address (if you will not have access to a work email address). This will help you stay in touch with industry news.


Email templates to advise stakeholders you are heading off on parental leave

Our go to list of number and websites for help

Final week:

  • Formally meet with your manager to close out any last-minute things.
  • Ensure your parental leave is inputted into the system.
  • Change your voicemail.
  • Clean out your emails.
  • Prepare a list of emails that you will need whilst on leave to stay in touch with people.
  • Set up your out of office so it’s ready to go.
  • Write down all your passwords and keep them somewhere safe.

Final Day:

You should have nothing to do on your last day. More often than not, your office will have a morning tea or lunch and then it will be time to go. We have seen so many mamas stressed on their last day, as they have left everything to the last minute. Follow this plan and we promise you that you will enjoy your last day and leave the office feeling confident and excited about the journey ahead.

The only things you should have to do are:

  • Activate your out of office.
  • Send your final note to your team and stakeholders.
  • Send a final note to your manager thanking them for their support and reinforcing that you would like to keep in touch.

Leave the office feeling confident that you have done everything you can. This is now your time to enjoy, relax and prepare for the next chapter.

A printable version of this checklist is available here.

Find out more about the Circle In team.