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‘Don’t be afraid to ask’ when navigating post-maternity leave arrangements, says CLO

The chief legal officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital discusses how parents of young children can navigate work arrangements when returning from maternity or paternity leave. 

user iconJess Feyder 07 February 2023 Big Law
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Speaking on The Corporate Counsel Show, Fleur Katsmartin, the chief legal officer and corporate secretary at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, spoke about her decision not to fully step out of work while on her maternity leave. 

With one recently born child and now three children under the age of four, Ms Katsmartin spoke about how it was possible for her to continue working part-time while balancing “the mayhem, chaos and fun” at home. 

“I wanted to try and find the balance without fully stepping out for a period,” she explained, “but it’s hard”.


One of the challenges “is keeping my brain working,” she said. “The memory loss, the lack of sleep, the inability to speak English coherently — these are all real things that happen, at least have happened to me after having a baby.”

One way she faced this challenge was to continue with her corporate secretary role throughout her maternity leave. “The ability to keep the CORPSEC aspect of the role kicking along while not having to do pure legal duties has meant that my brain keeps working,” she explained.

“I feel like I’m contributing to the organisation, which is important for me, whilst making sure I still have, and enjoy, my maternity leave.”

Ms Katsmartin spoke about returning to work after maternity leave. “Speaking with a lot of my colleagues, trying to find that balance in the return to work after having children, whether for either parent, is really challenging.”

“One of the benefits about being so busy at the hospital is that really my imposter syndrome doesn’t get a chance to kick off because I’m just so busy,” she commented. 

“You just need to give it a go and see what works for you,” she said, adapting how and when one works in a way that allows for effective work while also balancing family. 

Ms Katsmartin gave advice on how in-house counsel could talk to the executive about their priority of raising a family while managing the necessary business functions that are expected of them. 

“You’ve got to find your voice, and you’ve got to ask,” she advised.

“As lawyers, we’re at times afraid that we won’t be seen as being perhaps as hardworking or as committed or any of those sorts of things, which is just not true.

“When I took the role at Royal Melbourne, I was on maternity leave with my second child, and I’d made it very clear that I’m committed and I am as hardworking as anyone else, but between the hours of four and seven, I will not be contactable. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask. And it doesn’t diminish your capability or capacity as a lawyer. I think it demonstrates that you’re able to adapt and to try and juggle those things best you can.”

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