By Emma Cleary, ten2two
When you’re returning to work after a period of maternity leave, there’s a lot to think about. It’s likely you’ll need to find a fresh way to make your old job fit around your new circumstances. We look at how you can feel more in control of a return to the workplace.
Consider your childcare carefully
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, you’ll need to find childcare for the hours you’re at work. But did you also know that many parents have to do this while their child is still in the womb? The waiting lists for nursery provision can be long, so the sooner you get this ball rolling, the better. Likewise, if you need to hire a nanny or au pair; the selection process can take time and it’s important to get this right so you avoid issues down the line.
Many people these days ask grandparents to help out. But have you thought about what you’ll do in case they have holidays or are unwell, for example? The same can be said for child§minders, although this type of childcare can be more flexible than nurseries, for example, if you are late or stuck in traffic.
The childcare you choose will also give you a good idea as to whether you’ll eventually be earning enough to cover these bills and the other associated costs of going out the front door every morning, such as transport costs and lunches. And if you’ll be working long hours, you may also need to think about getting a cleaner or other household support.
It’s also worth bearing in mind your rights to unpaid parental leave. You can have time off to look after your child’s welfare, for example, if your child has long-term healthcare requirements. Find out more about parental leave at www.gov.uk/parental-leave/overview
Make the most of keeping in touch days
Some parents we know have reported a crisis of confidence returning to work after having a baby. You may even start to question whether you can do the job any more or whether you’re so ‘out of the loop’ that you won’t keep up when you return to work. This is probably the sleep deprivation talking. Like riding a bike, you probably did your job very well before, so there’s no reason you won’t be able to do it again. If you think this might be you, you might like to consider keeping in touch days.
You can have up to ten keeping in touch days, which are optional and paid, without it affecting statutory maternity pay see www.gov.uk/employee-rights-when-on-leave for further details. It’s best to talk to your employer directly about this so they can make plans about how best to use your time. Some people go in to perform a normal day of duties, have a meeting with colleagues or additional training, so they’re not at a disadvantage when returning to work.
Going back to full-time hours
There are lots of ways to make returning to work after having a baby work. But if you’re worried you won’t make the nursery pick up time, you might want to approach your employer to discuss a change in working hours. You could ask for staggered hours, where you go in early and leave early, still completing the same hours as you did before. A popular choice is to work compressed hours, where you work your full-time hours in four days. Or you might ask for a day working from home to help you use your commuting time more effectively.
If you feel you need to work more flexibly still, you can ask your employer to drop your hours by a day or two and go part-time. Your employer doesn’t have to agree to this, and you will likely have to go to a meeting with the HR department (if your company has one) to discuss the reasons you feel you can better fulfil your position in this way. Find out more about requesting flexible working at www.acas.org.uk
What to do if work isn’t working
If your employer doesn’t appear to be supporting your return to work by agreeing to a change in working hours or if you feel you can’t make your existing job work once you’re a parent, it can be hard to take.
If an HR decision doesn’t go your way, you might begin to feel resentful towards your employer. Employees no longer have a right to appeal a flexible working request, but every company is different, so it’s worth checking what your work’s policy is on this. Find out more at www.gov.uk/flexible-working/appeals
If you find your employer isn’t going to accommodate your needs, all is not lost. A rise in flexible working has meant that many companies are more accommodating than they used to be. You might decide to look for another position elsewhere, which could be a good step for your career. Or you may consider offering your professional services on a contract or freelance basis.
At Ten2Two, we deal solely in flexible career jobs for professional working people. These vary from part-time roles to contracts for maternity cover or short-term projects, through to freelance and full-time flexible positions.
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