Friday, November 7, 2008

Returning to Work, Part One: Work

I've been meaning to post here for a while about the return-to-work dilemma. I can't believe that Gwen is already six months old, or, more to the point, that I am more than halfway through my maternity leave. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, more than perhaps is healthy. Let me lay it out for you.

First of all, I *have* to go back to work for the Health Authority - not because we need the money (although we do), but because for the first six months of my leave, my union was paying me a top-up to my EI benefits, and if I don't go back to work for them, I have to pay all that money back. So becoming a stay-at-home mom is out, which is fine by me because I think being at home all the time would drive me completely bonkers.

For the past year or so, I've been quite contentedly planning to go back to work part-time. To me, this is the perfect solution for our family, and gives Gwen a great blend of both worlds: professional care (new environment, toys, socializing with other kids) and family care. She'd be in daycare two days a week, with Grandma for one day, and with me for the other two weekdays, leaving the weekends for family time. Recently, however, this option has started to look less and less possible.

Unlike a retail or service position, where I could just tell my boss that I want full time or part time hours, working in a union government job means that my particular position is rigidly defined. So rigid, in fact, that if I wanted to make my job into a part-time position I would have to 1) convince all layers of management that the work could be done in half the time, not just by me but by anyone; 2) convince them that losing a fulltime staff is a good idea, since this ultimately affects their budget and thus their relative importance as a department manager; 3) wait for them to re-post the position, which could take months; and then 4) re-apply for the position. For the job I already have. And there is a chance, however slim, that I would not be the successful applicant, which would really be a smack upside the head with the irony stick.

So, the second option is to jobshare. I asked my union rep how this works, and it's pretty similar to the option above in terms of the convincing management and so on, but also includes the fun (impossible?) task of finding someone who wants to jobshare with me, and creating a full written jobshare plan that would detail exactly who would be responsible for what, and what hours each person would work, and so on. Even if I could find this magic person *and* find the time to create this document, I don't have the knowledge to do so because of one more sticky little fact. Sometime in my year of leave (the date has been changed twice already), a new software program is supposed to be adopted by our department that will basically eliminate the data entry position. Which is, um, my job. So how the heck do I write a hugely detailed document about how I'm going to share my job with someone when I don't even know what that job will be?

So, on to the third option. The major bonus of working for the Health Authority is that I can apply for any internal job posting, even when I'm on leave. In fact, I think if I apply and am the successful candidate (due to qualifications and seniority) they then have to hire a temporary person to do the job until my leave is finished. So I can scour the postings every week for part time jobs, right? Yes I can! And I can apply for every appropriate part time position that comes up, right? Yes I can! And I can count the number of appropriate part time positions that have been posted in the past six months on approximately zero fingers, right? YES I CAN!

So, um, yeah, that's not looking so good either.

Anyway, barring unforeseen miracles or found wealth, it is starting to look a whole lot like I will have to work full time come April. Of course, there are still many unknowns. Maybe the new software will change my job so much that the management will have to re-post the position anyway, and I'll be able to persuade them to make it a part-time position. Maybe another perfect part-time position will present itself. I don't know. But in the meantime, I am trying to change my attitudes so that if I do end up working full time, I will feel okay about that.

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