Ask LH: How Can I Get Back Into The Workforce After Having A Baby?

Dear Lifehacker, I had a child 18 months ago, and I am having extreme difficulty getting back into the workforce. I was wondering who can help me find a job? I have tried casual, part-time and full-time positions across multiple industries but keep getting knocked back. I am by no means picky, but I feel unemployable. I am receiving no government benefits and we have bills to pay. I would really appreciate any advice. Thanks, More Than A Mummy

Working mum image from Shutterstock

Dear MTAM,

Under the Fair Work Act, Australian businesses are not allowed to discriminate against new parents returning to work. There are a range of laws and legal obligations that every employer must adhere to when dealing with employees with newborn babies. While these workplace rules mostly relate to parents who are already on the payroll, it also covers unemployed parents looking for a job.

Here's what the Australian Human Rights Commission has to say on its Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review website:

When you apply for or start a new job, an employer must not refuse to employ you and must not treat you less favourably than another job applicant because of, for example, your sex, pregnancy, potential pregnancy, marital/relationship status, family responsibilities or breastfeeding status.

Unfortunately, proving you were discriminated against during a job interview is next to impossible when it comes to parental status. Unless they explicitly state you're not getting hired because of your baby, there's very little the Fair Work Ombudsman can do to help. In any event, there could be myriad reasons why they chose to go with somebody else, ranging from stronger qualifications to a better "cultural fit".

Your best bet is to tailor your approach in interviews to increase the odds of getting hired. The government's Supporting Working Parents website contains some great advice on what to say if asked about family. You can find the advice here.

Alternatively, it might make more sense to embark on a freelance career if you have skills that are in-demand. This will allow you to work from home, set your own work hours and choose projects depending on bills that need paying. You can find plenty of advice on kickstarting a freelance career, finding clients and negotiating rates here, here and here. You might also want to check out these case studies of professionals who work from home with kids. Good luck!

As always, we're keen to hear from readers on this topic. If you were ever in a similar boat to MTAM, please let her know how you found employment.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Consider volunteering first, and hopefully if it is a good work place and you display your skills strongly, you will quickly go on their casual list and then fingers crossed permanent. For me it was never a question not to work after having children for income and my mental state, so I started my own business from home so I could still be with my daughters while they were little and pay the bills. Good Luck.

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