What kinds of problems could I face when I return to work?

It can take time to get used to the patterns of working life again. Even needing to be at a certain place at a certain time and stay there for the whole day can come as a shock when your life has been following very different rhythms.

You will have to go through the process of learning or re-learning the tasks involved which, even for someone returning to the same job, can be challenging. And, whether you're returning to your old job or doing something completely different, there's a good chance that you'll be unfamiliar with at least some of the technology and processes used, because working practices rarely stand still.

If you are returning to your former job or organisation, you could face some crucial changes among your colleagues. You may have a new boss with whom you need to build a relationship from scratch. Close colleagues may have left or moved on within the organisation. New people may have arrived. Changes in roles could call for changes in relationships. There's a good chance that former peers or subordinates will have become your superiors while you've been gone. And, unfair as it may seem, some of your colleagues may have changed their attitudes towards you because you've had a break, perhaps regarding you as less than fully committed to the organisation or your career. It's their problem not yours, but something to be aware of nevertheless.

If you're beginning a new job in a new organisation, you'll have an entirely different set of challenges. You'll be starting with a clean slate, and that means getting to know the job, the people and the culture entirely from scratch. The learning curve will be almost as steep as when you first started out at work.

Some of the reasons for a career break, such as illness or childbirth, could have a physical impact on your work. As well as coming to grips with the nuts and bolts of your job, you may also have to take into account the demands of child care or the effects of a chronic illness or disability, requiring an element of planning that you never needed before. See our Family-friendly Work and Disability sections for information on your rights and entitlements.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.