How to keep your career on track

(and get paid for doing it!)

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It’s still commonly assumed that when you have a baby, two things are inevitable: firstly, you will fall so in love with that baby that you will lose all your career ambition, and secondly, that you’ll lose your confidence.

There is ample evidence that women do not lose their career ambition. This includes a recent report by PwC, Time to Talk: What has to change for women at work, revealing that women are determined to succeed professionally: 73% responded they are actively seeking career advancement opportunities.

The research also revealed that 42% of women felt nervous about the impact children might have on their career. With good reason too: 48% of new mothers said they were overlooked for career advancement because they had children, and the Human Rights Commission found that one in five (18%) mothers reported that they were made redundant, restructured, dismissed or their contract was not renewed either during their pregnancy, when they requested or took parental leave, or when they returned to work.

While we advocate for the addressing of bias to be a shared accountability with the workplace, the reality is this responsibility still largely falls to women. Fortunately this is recognised by Australian legislation and there are strategies, including accessing paid keeping in touch days that can help mitigate the discrimination described above while on parental leave.

Keeping in touch addresses workplace bias towards parental leavers

Researchers from Canada and Australia surveyed 558 Canadian employees and asked them to review a job application for a marketing manager role where the candidate had taken a year of maternity leave.

Survey participants were randomly presented with one of four scenarios:

  • the would-be marketing manager had used a keeping in touch program while on maternity leave

  • the keeping in touch program existed but the would-be marketing manager hadn’t used it while on maternity leave

  • there was no information about whether the keeping in touch program had been used while on maternity leave

  • there was no reference to a keeping in touch program

Agency perceptions, job commitment and hirability were the highest when the candidate had used the keeping in touch program while on maternity leave.

While economists have looked at maternity leave length and career impact, the study, published in the prestigious Journal of Applied Psychology, was the first of its kind to investigate why women often experienced penalties after taking a longer maternity leave, and strategies to overcome this.

According to RMIT School of Management lecturer, Raymond Trau, “When a woman takes a longer period of maternity leave, such as a year off work, they’re often perceived as caring and nurturing but less ambitious and driven, whereas, when a woman takes one month off, they’re often perceived as ambitious, assertive, driven and committed to their career.”

So what is keeping in touch? (KIT)

KIT is a strategy or program that allows team members to remain connected to their workplaces while on parental leave. Under the Fair Work Act, employees can access up to ten KIT days while on unpaid primary carer’s leave.

A KIT activity might for which (in agreement with your employer) you can get paid, can include:

  • doing training or attending a conference

  • support for transitioning back to the workplace such as using coaching and transition programs such as the Grace Papers programs

  • becoming familiar with new processes and refreshing your skills, and

  • participating in conversations with your people leader about changes to your role.

Our Tips

Keeping in touch is good for your personal brand, and is a great way to reduce the likelihood of losing your confidence and missing out on potential opportunities while you are on parental leave. 

1. Create a calendar of all activities you may like to attend as the basis for your KIT plan - e.g. conferences and Christmas parties - (note that social activities you would not ordinarily get paid for do not entitle you to a paid KIT day). 

2. Agree with your people leader on a KIT plan (found in Step 4, The Departure Lounge) & allocate at least 3 days towards completing the Keeping In Touch & Return to Work steps, and then consulting with your people leader about your job ahead of your return to work. (Don't forget to claim your KIT days.)

3. Ask your people leader to keep in touch with you too especially those that make sense for your professional vision. This might include asking them to keep you informed of any promotion opportunities, invite you in for a performance appraisal, or consult with you and then advocate for a pay rise while you are on leave. 

*N.B. KIT days should be accessed after any paid parental leave entitlements have ended. Make sure your workplace has also counted them towards your service.

Need help? Get in touch with us via chat, via Ask An Expert, or by calling us on 1300 886 749.

Otherwise, log back in, and use our tools to keep your career on track.