Returning to work after maternity leave
As with all change, there is an emotional and psychological adjustment when you return to work after maternity leave. The first few days back at work can be difficult. You may feel comfortable being back in a familiar environment, while at other times it may feel like it will take ages to settle in again.
This is when preparation and planning will pay off. A back to work plan - agreed by your employer and including a planned handover period - will provide the framework to get back up to speed. You may find the plan needs to be readjusted because you are adapting quickly or not. It is OK to speed things up or down if that feels right to you.
If you built a strong network before you left, and have kept in touch with people over your maternity leave, this will also pay dividends. You will find that you are welcomed back and can continue developing the relationships that will help you in your working life. Remember that this is a transition period for your colleagues and boss as well.
You may choose to work differently from when you left. It will take time for your colleagues and boss to realise the full implications of this. Our article 'Settling in at work after maternity leave' discusses the above issues in greater detail and provides helpful suggestions.
The term flexible working is used to describe any working pattern that is adapted to suit your needs. Listed below are the most common types of flexible working:
- Part time: working less than the normal hours per day or fewer days per week.
- Home working: working from home either ad hoc or on a regular basis.
- Compressed hours: working your agreed hours over fewer days, e.g. working 37 hours in four days.
- Flexi time: choosing when to work (there’s usually a core period during which you have to work).
- Annualised hours: your hours are worked out over a year (often set shifts with you deciding when to work the other hours).
- Staggered hours: different starting, break and finishing times.
- Job sharing: sharing a job with someone else.
The process for requesting and getting a formal agreement for flexible working can take up to 14 weeks and this needs to be in place before you return to work. Any employee can request flexible working, however some employees have a statutory right in law to do so, and their employers have a statutory duty to consider this request.
Your rights to, and how to request flexible working are discussed in greater detail here.
Availability, flexibility and cost of childcare can vary dramatically between different areas of the UK. Finding the right childcare is the most common concern amongst mothers returning to work. Take time to discuss the options with your partner. Choices include:
- day nurseries
- children’s centres
- nursery schools
- au pairs
- family members.
There are a number of practical factors to consider when weighing up the options for childcare:
- How does this fit with the flexibility my job demands?
- What are the back-up options when my child is unwell and excluded from childcare?
- What is the back-up option if my child’s carer is unwell?
- What are the financial implications?
- Am I entitled to working tax credits to pay for part or all of childcare costs?
- Can I use childcare vouchers with this form of childcare?
- When was the last OFSTED inspection and how was it rated?
The Day Care Trust can give you further information on childcare, and an idea of current costs.
NCT produces online guides for pregnant employee's and their employers. Click below to read through the booklets which provide the tools, tips and information that will help you to develop good working practices for maternity leave.
The Daycare Trust provides information and factsheets on how to find and pay for childcare, and support your child's early learning.
Directgov provides information on your rights on returning to work after maternity leave.
Maternity Action works to end inequality and promote the health and well-being of all pregnant women, their partners and children from before conception through to the child's early years.