My maternity leave is over… what now?

After a stretch of maternity leave, returning to the world of work can feel daunting. The position you’re going back to may have evolved since you’ve been away.

Your time as a member of staff might feel so long ago that slipping back into the everyday demands of your job can prove challenging.

8 May 2018

If you are returning to work after 26 weeks or less you are entitled to return to exactly the same job as 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

Assuming that you are able to return to the same or a similar role, there are plenty of ways to ease the transition - both logistically and emotionally - in order to make the return to work an enjoyable experience.

We’ve put together a checklist of ideas to consider before you step back into your role:

Stay in the loop

It’s useful to make use of ‘keeping in touch’ days that are available to you, to help you transition and stay connected with your team before you step permanently back into your role.

It can also make sense to use some of your annual leave allowance as a buffer between maternity leave and work to phase in your return, increasing your days at the office over a number of weeks.

Women returning from maternity leave are more likely to face discrimination in the workplace than they were a decade ago, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. A study by the EHRC estimates that around 54,000 new mothers are losing their jobs across Britain every year – almost twice the number identified in similar research undertaken in 2005.

Staying engaged with your employer will help you to feel connected and remain in their thoughts and consideration, which could lead to less discrimination, you may want to plan a monthly call with your manager, just a quick catch up (perhaps after the first 3 months) to get an update on what’s going on and ensure you aren’t forgotten!

Consider what flexible working pattern you need

Smoothing the switch from maternity to office life can be made much easier by returning on a flexible basis. Whether that’s working Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week, only working afternoons or working from home where possible. Sit down with your partner and work out your schedules together, how can they help with drop offs/pick ups, what other support do you have (grandparents etc)?

If you know that it’s going to be challenging for your employer to accept your flexible working request, you need to be prepare a business case. Show them in detail how your proposal doesn’t affect your ability to achieve the goals/targets they have set for you.

Share the research - flexible workers are more productive in the hours they work, they are great role models and take less time off sick.

You could talk to other colleagues with similar working patterns to get advice on how to navigate the process. If you want to work 3 days a week, job sharing with one of your existing colleagues or hiring a job-sharer to fill the other 3 days is an option.

Engage with your employer

Communication is key. Before your first day back at the office, arrange to meet with your line manager. You could invite a member of your company’s HR team if you feel that would be helpful.Come prepared with a list of topics you’d like to cover - in the moment it’s all too easy to forget what you wanted to discuss. Things to mention might include whether your place of work has had any changes in leadership or re-organisations during your time away, or if there are any other recent changes that will affect your role.

Use this meeting to let your employer know about any concerns or questions you have about returning to work, so you can iron out potential issues ahead of time. This should help you to feel more ready to step back into your role with confidence.

Take the pressure off

Finally, remember that it’s important to ask for support when you need it. With such a busy life at home that’s full of new challenges, adding your career back into the mix is naturally going to be tricky at first - so don’t put pressure on yourself to be superwoman.

Make sure you’re clear on the support your workplace can offer you, and be sure to ask for help as and when you need it. Now’s the time to lean on your support systems - at the office, and at home.

We offer a free 30 minute consultation to everyone who registers with us, including CV and interview advice as well as guidance on securing flexible work. To find out more about how flexible working could help you step back into the world of work, get in touch with us today.

If you feel you are experiencing discrimination in regards to returning to your role, Citizens Advice and Working Families have lots of resources on their websites.