If you're preparing to return to work after maternity leave, you probably have a mile-long to-do list to prepare for this transition. Writing a return-to-work letter, either an email or a hard-copy, to your employer should be one of the things on your list.
Your manager probably knows that you are returning but may not be aware of your specific return date. Writing a letter lets your manager know when to expect you back and gives you the opportunity to ask for any scheduling changes and/or accommodations you'll need upon your return.
Basic Return to Work Letter
A basic return to work letter will work for most situations. You can write your own or use the ones that are provided here. There are some key points to include in any return to work letter. These include:
- Your return date
- Date your maternity leave began
- Accommodations and schedule requests (if any)
Along with your return to work letter, you may want to include other documentation, such as:
- Note from healthcare provider
- Copy of your original maternity leave request letter
- Copy of confirmation letter of maternity leave approval from HR
You can download and use the return to work letter below to send to your manager to let them know your plans. If you need help downloading the printable letter, check out these helpful tips.
Return to Work Letters for Special Circumstances
There may also be a special circumstance when you need to make some modifications for your return to work. In that case, you'll need a specific type of return to work letter that fits your situation. The letters below can be used to help you get the accommodations that you need to make your transition more effective.
Letter for Returning to Work Early
Some parents need or prefer to shorten the length of their maternity leave and return to work early. In some cases, this may be for financial reasons, or a desire to return to the work they love. Whatever the reason, it's important to notify your employer that you are returning to work earlier than planned.
Your letter does not need to include the specific reason(s) for your early return, but you do need to let your manager know your expected return date. Some employers require a certain period of time for notice (e.g., 2 weeks), so be sure to check with your human resources department to ask how much notice is required.
Extended Leave Letter
Although many employers are receptive to a conversation about extra maternity leave, it's important to make your wishes known in writing. Before you ask for an extended leave, check in with human resources to ask how much time you have available to take off with pay or without pay. Every organization is different, so make sure you understand your company's policies for extra time off.
Your extended leave letter must be sent well in advance of your expected return date. This gives your employer the opportunity to find (or keep) your replacement to cover your duties during your absence.
Return to Work with a Schedule Change
As a new parent, you may find that your previous schedule will no longer work for you and your family. You may want to switch to part-time work, need to change your starting time or end time, or need breaks throughout the work day.
Before writing the letter, work with your supervisor to create a schedule that works for you and your employer. It is helpful to let your boss know why you are requesting a schedule change and how you plan to make this work not only for yourself but also for your employer. This sample return to work letter (below) should be sent after you've discussed your proposed new schedule with your supervisor.
Breastfeeding Accommodations When Returning to Work
Continuing to breastfeed after returning to work may mean that you need certain accommodations. This may include a quiet place to pump milk, scheduled breaks for pumping, a place to store the milk, and/or other alterations to your schedule and workplace.
The federal "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" law requires that all employers are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work, which includes time to express milk and private space that is not a bathroom to pump.
This example letter is easy to modify according to your own circumstances and will serve as documentation of your request. Send this letter well in advance of your return to work to allow your company the opportunity to make appropriate arrangements.
Unable to Perform Job Duties Letter
After the birth of your baby, there may be certain parts of your job that you are unable to perform. For example, lifting heavy objects or sitting for an extended period of time. A work restriction or modification should only be asked for if medically necessary, and your letter should state the reasons(s) why you are unable to perform specific duties.
If this is a temporary problem such as needing additional time for c-section incision to heal, you can discuss your modified needs with your supervisor. However, if the problem is longer term, your workplace may require a letter from your healthcare provider in order to provide appropriate accommodations. It's best to use this letter as a follow-up to a conversation with your employer.
Tips for Crafting the Best Return to Work Letter
Return to work letters do not have to be very long. Short, sweet and succinct is typically all it takes to get your point across. Here are some pointers on how to write a good return to work letter:
- Choose email or mail format. Email may be okay, but some companies require hard copies/mailed letters on official letterhead. Check in with your HR department about which they prefer.
- Show enthusiasm. Though you may have mixed feelings about leaving your new baby, showing enthusiasm about your return helps set the tone for a positive return. It may be helpful to thank them for the time off during this life-changing event.
- Touch base with other parents. If you have fellow parents at your workplace, reach out to them to ask for advice on how to best handle your letter/request/return. They may have some good tips and pointers to make the transition a little easier on you and your baby.
- Communicate clearly. Clearly state your return date and any requested scheduling changes and accommodations in the letter without beating around the bush.
- Check company policies. If your company has specific rules or your contract states guidelines for maternity leave and work returns, make sure you are aware of them. This way, you're not asking for accommodations that are not within your company's ability to grant.
- Add your own voice. The template letters provided are a good start, but it's always a good idea to add your own 'voice' to your letter so it doesn't feel stale or generic.
Need more help crafting your return to work letter? Books that offer letter writing tips and sample letters may be at your local library or available for purchase at your local bookstore or online. There is a lot of information online but sometimes you just want to hold a book and flip through the pages. If this is you, we've compiled some options for you.
Helpful letter-writing books include:
- Webster's New World Letter Writing Handbook
- 1,001 Letters For All Occasions: The Best Models for Every Business and Personal Need
- Writing That Works: How to Communicate Effectively in Business.
As you prepare for your return to work, communicate with your manager and coworkers as clearly and consistently as possible. Other parents may be able to help guide you through the transition and provide support. And above all, remember to be patient with yourself as you navigate this stage of the parenting process.