When you're nearing the end of maternity leave, the last thing you need to worry about is return to work forms. You'll be preparing to leave your baby in child care for the first time and figuring out how to do your job now that you're a mom. Make those big tasks your priority.
Use this checklist of return to work forms to make sure all your paperwork is under control. You may not need every return to work form on this list, depending on your situation, but it's a good starting point. Then, enjoy the last few moments of maternity leave with your baby and prepare for your new life as a working mom. (Don't worry, it gets better from here on out.)
Let's start with the big kahuna of return to work forms: the letter you'll send your employer announcing that you're reading to resume your job. Not every organization will need this letter, so begin by checking with the human resource manager or department. You'll want to specify the date that you plan to return to work and your proposed schedule.
Ideally, you'll have worked out the details of your leave with your supervisor and work team already. So the return to work letter really is just a formality. Nonetheless, it can be an important step to avoid any confusion. Check with other working mothers at your company to see how they handled the end of maternity leave.
You return to work letter can be as simple as an email to your boss and human resource manager. Or if you're in a more formal work environment, you might consider printing and signing it -- the old fashioned way. You're unlikely to need a doctor's note, but again, check with your organization to be sure.
If you're feeling overwhelmed about where to start -- or perhaps you're just a bit sleep deprived -- refer to that vital document: your maternity leave plan. In all the return to work forms you create, your maternity leave plan plays a vital role. It's not set in stone, of course, but it is the framework on which you build subsequent decisions and steps.
Your maternity leave plan will likely contain specifics, such as the length of your maternity leave. If anything has changed from the plan, such as an earlier-than-expected birth, this is a good time to update your paperwork -- even if just for your own records.
The maternity leave plan will also document the understanding between you and your manager when it comes to the start date of your leave, whether you may be contacted while home with your baby, expected return date and your schedule. Some new working moms prefer to ease back into work with a part-time arrangement, while others rip the Band-aid off quickly.
Another document you should have created months earlier is a maternity leave letter. Along with your plan, this formally informs your employer of your intentions regarding leave, and documents the agreement between the two of you.
You may also want to write a separate maternity letter to clients letting them know that you are planning to be on leave and who will handle their needs while you are away. Feel free to include your personal email address or cell phone numbers for emergencies -- if you believe they won't abuse them. (This can be especially handy if you think there's a possibility that you won't return to work after leave. You always want to be building your network for future career opportunities.)
Along with the return to work forms that your employer needs, you'll want to prepare a compilation of daycare and medical information about your child to have it handy in case you're called about a sick baby while at work. I like to scan every medical form required by the child care center or school -- you never know when they will be calling you with a question or emergency. Also, the school officials may lose the documents, or you may need duplicates for camps or after-school providers. You'll be operating on a new mom's sleep-deprived brain, so give yourself the backup documentation.
For instance, you'll want to have the name, phone number, mailing address and e-mail addresses for the daycare provider, as well as cell phone numbers, if possible. You'll want your pediatrician's name, number and address as well, and the name and address of the nearest hospital to your child care location. You know the saying: plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Last but not least, before returning to work, consider whether you might want to negotiate a flexible schedule. Even if you haven't raised this issue with your supervisor, it's never too late to rethink the rigors of work and how to make the transition as smooth as possible for you, your baby and your employer.
A part-day or part-week schedule might help you gradually adjust to returning to work. Or perhaps you will want to use a reduced-hour schedule for the foreseeable future. Then again, you may merely need to shift your work hours around in order to accommodate child care.
Whatever your needs, don't be afraid to raise the issue with your employer. You're no longer just responsible for yourself. Your child's well-being depending on you having a healthy work-life balance, and there's no better time to start than the present.