Returning to Work after Maternity Leave
So this is it, after a whole year of being on maternity leave and having celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, I have now returned to the world of work.
During this past year my primary focus has been caring for my child and having quality time with her, taking her to mummy and baby group, making sure she is fed on time, happy, napped enough during the day and making sure I have enough of the all-important nappies!
In truth, I have been dreading returning to work. Do I still remember how to use the system? Can I still provide the advice I used to? The hardest part about going back to work after maternity leave has definitely been leaving my little one as I’ve never really been away from her for long periods of time. Have I made it more difficult to be away from one another? Probably, but I wouldn’t change our time together for the world.
Returning to work after any period of maternity leave (or shared parental leave) can be a daunting time for any parent. It is a time of mixed emotions – for some it’s a worry, for some it’s excitement at the thought of having an adult conversation or being able to finally have a drink while it’s still hot or to have lunch in peace. As well as worrying about how to do your job, you have the worries of “what if my child doesn’t settle in childcare, how will I manage the morning rush, the drop-off, the pick-up?”
Notice of Your Return to Work
Employers will assume that you will take all 52 weeks of your statutory maternity leave. However, if you wish to return earlier, you must give at leave eight weeks’ written notice to your employer. Your notice must state that you are returning to work early and that you wish to change the date of your return.
If you decide not to return to work at all, you must give your employer written notice in the normal way.
Returning to Work
When returning to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first 26 weeks of your maternity leave), you have a right to return to the same job, terms and conditions.
When returning to work after Additional Maternity Leave (the second 26 week period of your maternity leave), if your employer can show it is not reasonably practical for you to return to your original role, you don’t have the same right as above and must be offered alternative work with the same terms and conditions.
As I have already said, returning to work can be quite daunting so if you want to ease yourself back in gradually, make use of your Keeping in Touch Days (KIT). This gives you the opportunity to work up to 10 days (with pay) during your maternity leave, without losing maternity pay or benefits. You must agree the days with your employer beforehand.
If you want to breastfeed when you return to work, write and tell your employer. Your employer must do a risk assessment and provide suitable rest facilities.
Some parents decide not to return to work full time, or seek staggered hours. Consider making a flexible working request before you return to work. If you have worked continuously with your employer for 26 weeks, you are entitled to ask for a flexible working pattern – see our blog to find out more.
Note for Employers
Returning to work can be very difficult emotionally and some employees may struggle with the transition. I was very lucky to have over 12 months of maternity leave but not all parents are able to for financial reasons. Don’t judge them but offer support - they may need it more than you realise.
Retrain the employee in areas where you feel it would be beneficial (by way of a refresher) and ask them if they would like training in any area.
Welcome the employee in their return to work. The smallest gesture can make the biggest impact.
Keep in touch with them (within reason) while they are on maternity leave and give them the opportunity to attend a team meeting (for example) to keep them up to speed.
Be flexible (within reason) – babies do tend to fall ill when they first attend childcare. If the parent does not have family around them to collect their child from nursery or the childminders, offer some flexibility and understanding.
If you require advice on returning to work or flexible working, please contact a member of the Chattertons Employment Team.