Are you pregnant? Currently on maternity leave? Or perhaps one day want to start a family? Emily Pocock, a health visitor, former Paediatric Nurse within the NHS, Baby Counsellor and Founder of Baby Confidence sheds some light on how you can transition back to work after maternity leave. Over to you Emily...
Frequently parents have to deal with the practical, and emotional element of returning to work after Maternity Leave. Being at work all day long can feel like a distant memory after settling into life with a new baby. Some parents are often excited, others worried, or experiencing a mixture of both. One thing is certain, the transition requires planning. Here are some areas to consider:
Rights on Returning to Work
If you are returning to work after 26 weeks or less you are entitled to return to exactly the same job you were doing before the start of your leave. If you are returning after more than 26 weeks’ maternity leave you still have the right to return to the same job but if your employer has a good business reason why you cannot return to the same job, your employer can offer you a suitable alternative job on the same terms and conditions.
Flexible working is a great option for parents to help meet their family’s needs, and often reduces childcare costs. It allows for things such as job sharing, working from home, staggered hours, compressed hours and part-time hours.
Any employee is entitled to request flexible working (Children’s and Families Act 2014). You are eligible if you have been with your employer for 26 weeks, and you are allowed one application in 12 months.
The application must be in writing, and your employer has three months to give you a decision.
There are multiple benefits of flexible working to the employer; increased productivity, reduced burnout of staff, higher staff retention and increased staff morale are just a few.
Firstly, take some time to think about what is the best option for you. Families tend to use either; nurseries, child minders, a nanny or family members. They all vary in cost and have different benefits.
A good service to use is the Family Information Service (FIS) - each local authority will have one. Each FIS can be found online, with a list of all the registered nurseries and child minders, with links to their OFSTED reports.
A lot of nurseries can have long waiting lists, so it’s important to start thinking about this as soon as possible. Some employers also provide on-site nurseries.
Most childcare will offer a period of settling in time, which is beneficial to you both.
A phased return allows you to gradually adapt to work, and is generally a lot kinder to yourself as a whole. It also allows your child to gradually get used to the change. Most employers will give you an entry interview which allows you to discuss any anxieties. It is also a good time to set new goals, objectives and identify any learning gaps.
It is very common for children to get unwell when they first start childcare due to being exposed to other children. This is a normal part of developing their immune system. It’s important to familiarise yourself with your contract so you know your rights regarding taking carer’s leave. Some employers offer a certain amount paid, others do not.
Parents often feel guilty about returning to work and leaving their child in someone’s care.
A common worry is that returning to work can harm the child. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2010) completed a study which found that returning to work after a year can benefit the entire family.
It is normal to have some level of anxiety regarding the transition; this comes with being a parent. Talk to your support network about how you are feeling, often people close have been through the same thing. If you feel the anxiety is preventing you from sleeping or starting to get out of control, seek health advice. Often Health Visitors are a great resource for this.
Be prepared for some tears, they might happen in the planning stage or perhaps once you get to work. A lot of parents have a sudden feeling of panic on their first day; it’s completely normal. Just be reassured it will pass, be kind to yourself and have someone ready to talk to for support.
Remember this is also an exciting time, your child is likely to be surrounded by new friends. They will be learning lots of social skills and developing in new ways. It is also a time for you to get a bit of your identity back, away from being “mum”. It’s a good time to start thinking about your own personal goals.
Take time to think about what the new routine will look like. It’s a good idea to start doing practice runs so you know how long it will take to get to childcare in peak times. Think about what time you need to wake up? Will your child minder be giving breakfast? Give yourself time to think these things through.
It’s a good time to look at your child’s routine overall, because dependent on their age, this will vary. A lot of parents use their remaining maternity leave to work on routines for the child night and day. A good resource to use for help and advice is a Health Visitor.
Returning to work can feel daunting, but planning definitely helps this process run smoothly. Parents are often amazed how quickly their child adapts to the change.
ACAS offers advice on employment rights and early conciliation. You can call their helpline on 0300 123 1100 for more information.
Emily is a writer, Health Visitor, Paediatric Nurse, Baby Counsellor and Founder of Baby Confidence. She has over 10 years’ experience working with children and families.
Emily is on a mission to help parents be their baby’s expert, in a non-judgemental, strength based space. She provides services and packages to parents and companies. Understanding the needs of the employee with family and how best to support them.