Careers advice

Writing a return to work letter after maternity leave (with example)

A simple guide to getting these letters right.

What you’ll learn:

  • How much notice to give about returning from maternity leave.
  • What to do if you want to return to work early from maternity leave.
  • What to include in your return to work letter.
  • An example of return from maternity leave letter you can download and use.
  • What to do if you aren’t returning to work from parental leave.

Returning to work after maternity leave usually involves a mixture of emotions. Excitement at the prospect of restarting your career, eagerness to see friends and colleagues again, but also nervousness about leaving your child for potentially the first time, and trepidation about what you’re returning.

Among the things you’ll need to consider in the run-up to your first day back, is writing a return to work after maternity leave letter.

Not sure about how to do this? Fear not – we’ve got you covered. As well as info about why you need to produce these documents, we’ve got a return to work after maternity leave letter sample below which you can adapt and use yourself.

Return from maternity leave letter: what you need to know

While you should give your employer as much notice as possible about returning from maternity leave, the absolute minimum you can give in New Zealand is 21 days. 

If you’re planning to return to the same organisation after your maternity leave ends, your letter will achieve one of two things:

  • Advise your employer you’re returning: if the company left your job open, you need to write to them 21 days before your maternity leave finishes to let them know you plan on resuming work.
  • Begin your period of preference: this is for instances where your employer couldn’t keep your job open. In this case you need to write a letter 21 days ahead of the date you’ll be able to work, which starts your six month period of preference.

What is your period of preference? If the business wasn’t able to hold your job open, they have six months to give you a position similar in terms of status, pay and qualifications to the role you had before. They must do this as soon as possible within this window.

The content of your letter will be dictated by whether you're returning to the same job with the company.

What if I want to return to work early after maternity leave?

Generally, this is only possible with agreement from your employer. They may also ask for a medical certificate to prove you’re fit to return to work if you’re looking to come back earlier than previously agreed.

There are circumstances where you can return early without your employer’s permission:

  • You or your partner cease to be primary carers for the child.
  • If you tragically lose your child.

What to include in a returning to work after maternity leave letter

The two key things you need to include in your letter if you’re not asking about coming back early:

1. A date

As mentioned, you need to give 21 days' notice of your intention to get back to work – so you need to give your employer the date you’ll be back in the office.

If you wrote a letter at the start of your maternity leave, it’s a good idea to include a copy of this in your returning letter. This just makes it easy for your boss to see when your leave began and when you’d agreed to come back.

2. Any requests or new arrangements

When you went on maternity leave, you might have agreed to initially come back part-time, or with an element of flexible work built into your schedule. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to slip this into your return to work letter to remind your employer they agreed to this.

Equally, if you didn’t make such arrangements beforehand, but have thought about making changes to your schedule while on leave, your letter is a good place to outline this. While you’ll likely have to discuss the practicalities further with your manager, at least this way it won’t be a surprise on your first day. 

Bonus tip: while this is a formal letter, that doesn’t mean you can’t show enthusiasm about coming back. This’ll help set a positive atmosphere about your return.

Let your manager know ahead of your return if you have any requests for new arrangements.

Do I need a letter from my doctor when returning to work from maternity leave?

Generally speaking, the answer is no. The only time where an employer might ask for a medical certificate is if you’re seeking to return to work earlier than you’d previously agreed. This certificate is simply to show that you’re physically able to work after this shorter than planned maternity leave.

Return to work after maternity leave sample letter for NZ


I’m really excited about getting back to work, as I come to the end of my maternity leave. As per our previous agreement, my first day back in the office will be DATE. Please let this letter serve as notice of my intended return. Attached is a copy of my earlier maternity leave letter for your reference.

{If required, depending on circumstances} Once I’m back, I would be keen to discuss the possibility of building a greater degree of flexible work into my schedule, to give me more flexibility with daycare drop-off and pick-up. Please let me know if you think there would be any issues with this.

I can’t wait to see everyone, and get back into the swing of work. 


What to do when you’ve decided not to return to work after maternity leave

In NZ, you can resign from your role while on parental leave just as easily as if you were in the office full-time. The only real difference is that you’ll only get paid for any outstanding annual leave that had accrued prior to when you started maternity leave.

If you decide that you’re not going to come back, you need to give your employer notice at least 21 days before your maternity leave is due to end. However, if your employment agreement says you need to provide more notice than this, then that is the rule you should follow.