A Guide to Returning to Work

Returning to work after a child or a health issue is never easy

There are many reasons why people return to work after spending time away. You may have had a new baby join your family, needed to care for a family member, taken time out to attend to your health, or any number of other reasons.

Returning to the world of employment can be a daunting scenario. Front of mind is considering what can you do to make yourself as attractive as possible to a potential employer? In this guide to returning to work, we will consider the main challenges and how to overcome them. After all, you’re joining a group of nearly 13 million other Australians hoping to make themselves attractive to the right employer. Certainly, getting your qualifications up to speed is important.

The returning to work breakdown

Women returning from maternity leave make up a large portion of those returning to work. Almost 80% of maternity leave mums will return to the same job (up from 71% in 2011), and 43% are waiting until their child is at least seven months old before they go back to work (compared to 35% in 2011).

Only 5% of Australian men take primary parental leave, but that’s still a sizeable number of dads who will be looking to rejoin the workforce at some stage.
There’s also a growing number of older workers who are looking for either full or part-time employment. Over 65’s are the fastest growing age group securing employment, increasing by a whopping 11% in the past eighteen months.

Members of the armed forces face a unique challenge of finding work in a private enterprise once they leave the Australian Defence Force.

All these categories of workers have one thing in common: every single one will improve their employability by undertaking further study.

Just the stats

To be competitive as you return to work, its best to keep in mind the changing nature of the workplace. It’s worthwhile taking a step back to analyse the state of today’s workforce and understand what’s ahead of you, so you make informed decisions that keep your career relevant.

In 2017, for the first time, the percentage of Australian employees working full-time dropped below half to 49.97%. Now, part-time workers make up nearly 32% of the workforce, a record high. The rest are either self-employed or employers themselves. Illustrated by these facts is that you are more likely to re-enter the workforce as a casual employee than at any other time in our history.

How this trend affects you depends on your needs, your preferred industry, your experience, and of course, what job vacancies are in the market.

Next, we consider who is most likely to be returning to work, and how should to go about it.

Stay-at-home Mums

A recent US study paints a rather gloomy picture for mums wanting to return to work after giving birth. The study found more than 15% of working mothers got a call-back after sending out their resume, compared to 9.7% of unemployed mums and just 4.9% of stay at home mums.

The perception among employers was that mums returning to the workforce would be less ‘committed’ than others. However, sending resumes ‘blind’ (or ‘spraying and praying’) is a hit-and-miss employment strategy at best, and results in less than one in 50 receiving a call-back.

Almost 80% of maternity leave mums will return to the same job (up from 71% in 2011). Click To Tweet

In this context, it’s clear that building good business connections are key. Few people can expect to find work without leaving the house. Juggling children and pounding the pavement is no easy task, but getting yourself out there is vital. A staggering 85% of jobs are secured by simply knowing the right people.

Nearly 600,000 Australian women aged 15 or over have a child aged under two years of age, and 42% of them will return to work at some stage. That’s a lot of competition, so standing out is important. Studying and securing a diploma at your own pace is the perfect way to earn a new qualification. With this new certification you will be able to confidently introduce yourself to the best people when the time is right.

Mums returning to work after children

Stay-at-home Dads

Australia trails behind much of the developed world in supporting stay at home dads. For example, a new father in Sweden can expect up to 480 days of leave on 80% of his take-home pay.
For those who opt to ‘dip out’ of the paid workforce, what are the challenges when it’s time to return? In Australia, flexible work and working from home arrangements aren’t always supported by employers, and just 5% of new dads take paid parental leave, a figure that’s barely changed since the mid-1990s.

Employers with a more progressive attitude to flexibility are important, such as allowing part-time work or changeable hours. A good strategy is to actively seek these companies out during your transitional stage. Dads who’ve taken a little ‘time out’ obviously don’t lose their work skills while taking care of children, so maintaining self-confidence is important.

Since you’ve committed to fatherhood, it’s important to invest in yourself as well. Studying for a diploma part-time while looking after a little one would seem, to most reasonable employers, an impressive commitment to professional development.


Extended low interest rates are great news for borrowers, but if you rely on superannuation or a similar income stream to live, then it’s a growing concern for many. Combined with a falling Australian dollar sees thousands of ex-workers who either had retired, or were soon expecting to, back with a vengeance in the job market.

Nearly 180,000 Australians aged 45 or older who had retired before 2016-2017 are planning to return to work, many as a result of falling incomes. Just last year, Australians aged 65 and over had a workforce participation rate of 13%, compared to just 8% in 2006. With so many older Australians re-joining the employment ranks, it’s important to be able to stand apart.

Over 65s are the fastest growing age group securing employment, increasing by a whopping 11% in the past eighteen months. Click To Tweet

Many semi-retirees are enhancing their careers with a return to study and gaining a competitive advantage in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Most workers of advanced age have the benefit of experience and can receive credits when they decide to study an online diploma.

Defence force Veterans

It’s a startling fact that while former Australian Defence Force personnel are up to six times more likely to have the skills employers want, many find it difficult to secure work in the private sector.

Veterans have useful abilities in areas such as leadership, management, strategy, and negotiation that are key employment strengths. Yet, 13 months after leaving the ADF, their unemployment rate is only 8%, compared to the overall workforce rate of just over 5%.

Many ex-ADF members are hampered by not having the same corporate world ‘networks’ of others and the private sector’s lack of knowledge about their previous experience.

One excellent way former defence personnel can transition easily into the corporate world is by obtaining an online diploma. Business owners may not understand exactly how defence force skills translate into their specific workplace, but they do know the value of a high-end educational achievement.

Think outside the box

Traditionally, and not so long ago, employees were engaged full-time in one job until retirement. Now, we have an employment market where full-time workers are outnumbered by casuals, job security is non-existent, and the landscape is likely to change even further.

As a result, several trends have emerged in response to the changing workplace. Job sharing, for example, is bigger than ever and makes good sense, particularly for new mothers. One in 25 mums with kids aged twelve or under are working more than one paid job, in many cases ‘sharing’ the load with another young mother in similar situations. Job sharing allows flexibility for both employees and employers, and in sectors like government and hospitality, it can be the perfect solution.

‘Returnships’ are another option in the modern workplace. They are programs lasting from a few weeks to a couple of months, allowing returning workers extra training and mentorship to ‘re-sharpen’ their skills. However, these programs don’t always translate into ongoing work, and some workplace experts are sceptical of their value. You need to consider if this type of program will or will not suit your circumstances.

Confidence is catching

There are very few jobs where a newly acquired diploma would not be highly valued. It brings your skills up to date with the latest best-practice skills and proves to an employer that you’re willing to invest time and effort to be a more attractive candidate. An online diploma obtained through the College for Adult Learning can be tailored to suit your time-frames and experience.

Don’t underestimate the confidence you’ll get from knowing that it IS possible to handle whatever life throws at you while working towards your career goals. Mindset can make all the difference when you are returning to work. What business owner wouldn’t admire your commitment to self-improvement and professional development?