Back after the Bump

Released on: 19 July 2011

Mums face a challenging return to the workplace

Returning to work after maternity leave is still a hugely daunting and difficult experience for many mothers, according to new research published today (30 November) by the NCT.


One in three women (39 per cent) said they found going back to work after having a baby ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’, with 31 per cent saying their relationship with their boss had deteriorated since they had become pregnant. Despite a host of legislation and HR policies aimed at successfully welcoming mothers back into the workplace, many say they’re still not receiving the support they need. 


The study, which surveyed over 1,500 mothers who have recently gone back to work, also found that one in three (32 per cent) felt their promotion prospects had been reduced since having a baby, while 13 per cent said they have reduced seniority since returning to work.


Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive of the NCT, says:


“Mums often want or need to go back to work. Despite changes to the welfare system to encourage mothers to return to work, and a raft of legislation for employers, the reality is many still find returning to work after a baby an incredibly daunting and difficult experience.


“It’s time employers got a grip not just of their policies and paper work but how to help their managers talk to and support mums after what is often the most important and life changing event of their lives.”


Currently, employees with caring responsibilities for children aged 16 and under have the statutory right to request to work flexibly, enabling them to adjust their working pattern to suit their needs. The vast majority (88 per cent) of mothers who were surveyed for the NCT’s report wanted to work flexibly on their return to work. However, one in six (16%) of those said their request for flexible working practices had gone nowhere.  


Emma, a bank office clerk, found her return to work extremely frustrating:

“I told the HR department and also my line manager when I’d be coming back, but still nobody was expecting me when I returned. I’ve also seen the same happen with two other colleagues. It’s a bit disappointing really and makes you feel as if you’re not wanted.”



Renata, a shop floor supervisor, also experienced difficulties, particularly when it came to a request for flexible working:

“Before my maternity leave, I decided that when I returned to work I would work part time. I completed all the necessary paperwork and it was formally confirmed with my manager. However, a week before my return, he informed me that no part-time work was available. It was completely unprofessional; they shouldn’t have made false promises.”


To help guide both mothers and employers through a smooth return to the workplace, the NCT and the charity Working Families have published two free downloadable guides available from or [Opens new window]. 


Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families, says:


“Returning to work when you have a new baby can be very difficult for the new mother and her manager. But the good news is that problems can be avoided by good communications and good planning together. These new guides take mother and manager step by step from early pregnancy, through maternity leave and a successful return to work”


Top tips on maternity leave for mums:

·         Prepare a handover plan - discuss with your boss the options for handing over responsibilities and when it is appropriate to do this


·         Remember, you are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave, regardless of length of service or the number of hours you work


·         Keep a record of everything and try to get agreements in writing


·         Start thinking about your return to work early on


·         Anything can be flexible working - it doesn't have to be a reduction in hours, it could be home working, compressed hours, job sharing or term time only working