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Strategies and Support for Parents Returning to Work

Taking time off to look after your child is a special and meaningful time for parents. Whether you have taken a few months or a few years off, it’s never too late to return to work. A few simple tips can help you re-enter the workforce with confidence.

13/05/24 News

Caring for a child is one of life’s most challenging and rewarding roles. It can, at times, be all-consuming, with your own goals and career aspirations sometimes falling down the list of priorities. Parents can find they lose confidence in their skillset and abilities, especially after extended parental leave or even feel unsure about how to restart their careers. Thankfully, there are lots of resources, support and employment pathways for parents when they are ready to return to work.

Assistance that goes the distance

Everyone has their own unique path with parenthood including their journey back to the workforce. Whether you have chosen not to return to your original job, decided you need a career change now you have a family, or even have never worked at all, there is support available. Funded by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, ParentsNext is designed to help return parents to the workforce.

The ParentsNext program provides support for parents at all stages of their employment journey, assisting them with short and long-term goals. Even if paid work is not your immediate focus, ParentsNext can help you build a strong foundation for the future. This might include obtaining your driver's licence, pursuing training or education, or gaining work experience. The program is tailored to your individual needs, making it a great place to begin, regardless of where you are on your employment path.

The ParentsNext program provides services, including:

  • Job preparation: Get help with your resume and cover letter, interview skills and tips, and practical skill development.
  • Education and training: Find and complete relevant training to boost your employability in your chosen field.
  • Licences and certificates: Access support to complete relevant certificates or licences (e.g. drivers’ licence, white card or sole trader business registrations).
  • Work experience: Gain valuable work experience through placements.
  • Childcare assistance: Connect with childcare providers while completing study or training.
  • Mental health support: Access counselling and other support services to address any concerns.
  • Career guidance: Work closely with a dedicated Family and Career Consultant to find a job that aligns with your goals and family needs.
  • Family friendly environment – Bring your little one(s) along to your appointment with offices set up with toys, books and games.

Want to find out more about the ParentsNext program? Workskil Australia can help. Contact us or click here to find out more information, including eligibility and locations.

Bringing the balance

When you’re ready and actively looking for work, it’s important to think about the type of jobs and the structure you would need to accommodate your family life. Achieving a healthy and sustainable work-life balance as a parent can be a tricky task, but one made easier with some clearly defined working requirements. Here are some options to consider:

Part time or casual – This can be good middle ground as it allows you to split your time, between work and home life. Start with fewer hours or days and gradually ramp up if possible as you adjust. This allows you and your family to adapt comfortably.

Work from home - Some workplaces offer remote or hybrid working arrangements, freeing up valuable time you would otherwise spend traveling to and from work.

Flexibility – You may have the option to have flexi time or flexible working arrangements that allow you to make up hours outside of your rostered time. This is a handy benefit for working parents who need to pop out for appointments, school events or attend to a sick child.

Be a transparent parent!

During the interview stage, it’s vital for working parents to highlight their family needs and demands to ensure a good understanding by both parties. Great managers understand and appreciate employees with a work-life balance and can often be accommodating.

Questions to consider asking in your job interview.

  • Overtime expectations: Are there any expectations to work out of hours?
  • Flexible work schedule options: Is there any flexibility with my working hours? E.g. set rostered or flexible working arrangement.
  • Future schedule adjustments: Are there options to review or change my working structure/ hours in the future? E.g. part time to full time or swap hours or days.
  • Work-life balance support: How does the company encourage or support a healthy work-life balance? Especially for parents?

You may also want to consider the questions your future employer could ask about your time away from paid work. Try not to think about this time as a ‘career gap’, but rather a shift in job roles. There are many transferable skills you have used and acquired during your time as a stay-at-home parent, including:

  • Organisation and time management
  • Problem solving and resourcefulness
  • Communication and negotiation
  • Patience and resilience
  • Multitasking and prioritisation
  • Project management
  • Emotional intelligence

By highlighting these skills during interviews and using specific examples from your parenting experience, you'll showcase your value as a working mum or working dad.

Be aware of your self-care

Once you have returned to work and established a new routine as a working parent, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel the pressure of trying to do it all.

A few strategies can help working parents navigate this work-life balance and daily juggle a bit smoother.

  • Embrace the simple life: Whether it’s one pot meals, or ordering your groceries online, or leftovers for school lunches, try and keep things simple, don’t feel guilty about taking the easy or quick option.
  • Don’t wait, delegate: Utilise the people around you and don’t be afraid to ask for help and accept it when offered. For more information on support services available for parents visit our Resource Hub.
  • Prioritise self-care: Schedule time dedicated for activities that help you recharge, even if it’s just 30 mins. Going for a walk or reading and practising healthy habits will help to improve your overall wellbeing and energy levels as well.
  • Be kind to yourself: There will always be days where things don’t go according to plan, filled with unexpected meltdowns, running late for appointments, and burnt dinners. Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to celebrate the wins, no matter how small.

Workskil Australia - Supporting parents

Returning to work or entering the workforce for the first time can be a daunting process. The Workskil Australia team can assist you in gaining new skills and qualifications to help you on your pathway to employment. If you are a current Workskil Australia customer and are interested in the ParentsNext program, please speak to your Employment Coach. For new customers, click here to find out more about the program, including eligibility and locations.

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