Before going on parental leave, there are some things you can do to set yourself up for a smooth return to practice. Taking time to plan your leave will make the transition back to work less daunting when you return.
Effectively plan your parental leave well in advance, and set deadlines for when you will not be able to take on new projects. Being organised about the tasks you take on and planning who will oversee your files when you are away will be help with your return and keeping the relationship with your colleagues and clients positive.
If you don’t think your workload can be realistically handled by the rest of your team while you are away, explain this to your partner and make the case for recruiting cover. Being proactive and offering to help with recruiting cover can allow you both to meet the needs of your clients and demonstrate that you have effectively planned your time away.
Spending time with the person dealing with your files when you are away will help them to deal with the work and your clients effectively. This might involve explaining all the important details of a particular file, helping the person covering your files to build a relationship with your clients and being available to answer any questions they might have about your work.
A smooth handover will be important both for you and the person in charge of your files while you are gone. It is important to arrange a face-to-face meeting for your handover, and ideally follow up with written notes and an outline of tasks and priorities for while you are away.
No matter how hard you try, you'll never complete everything before you go on leave. It is important to put work to one side when it is time for you to leave the office. You should explain this to your colleagues, finish as much as you can and leave the remainder of loose ends to be tidied up while you are away.
Before you go, think about your preferences for keeping in touch with your work and your workplace. Employees are able to work up to 40 hours during the 18 weeks of paid parental leave, provided this work is not done within 28 days of their child being born. Keeping in touch days can include attending meetings, training courses, meeting new team members and other activities to keep you up to date. Be open with your colleagues and employer about your keeping in touch preferences before you take parental leave. By setting the level of communication you would like while on leave, this allows you to keep up to date while having the amount of contact with the office that suits your needs.
You may want to work flexibly when you return to work. Think about the types of flexible working arrangements that are likely to suit you, and raise these with your employer. For example, you might anticipate that you are likely to require shorter days or re-arranged hours to accommodate new family life. Starting this discussion early on will allow you to have an open conversation about the best options, and plan your return well in advance. You may want to share some of the benefits of flexible work with your colleagues and employer, especially if you think your firm may be reluctant about flexible work.
Make the conversation about your expectations while on leave and upon returning to work explicit with your employer. Having clear standards and ground rules your leave will make it easier for both your needs and the needs of your employer to be met. Don’t be afraid to discuss options or raise concerns that you might have related to your time on parental leave.
All lawyers in New Zealand that hold a practising certificate will need to file a declaration of compliance with the Law Society at the end of each CPD year. Find out how parental leave might affect your CPD obligations.