It’s often hard enough to return to work after a one-week holiday, but returning to work after months off while you were looking after your beautiful new born baby? Yep, that’s difficult.
So, will it be hard? Yes. Will it take some getting used to? Yes. Are there ways to make it less stressful? Absolutely.
First of all you should know that if you return to work after your ordinary maternity leave – that's the first 26 weeks of your statutory maternity leave - you are entitled to the same job role and the same terms and conditions as before you were off work. If, however, your employer proves that your role is no longer practical or it no longer exists, it must offer you an alternative role with the same terms and conditions. If you feel your employer hasn’t been fair, speak to your HR department or write a formal complaint.
‘Keeping in touch’ days
If your employer agrees to this solution, you will be entitled to 10 working days during your maternity leave without it affecting your maternity pay or benefits. On these ‘keeping in touch’ days you’ll be able to come back in to work, see new and old faces and catch up with colleagues to see what’s changed. When you come back permanently you’ll feel more comfortable knowing that you’ve already been in the office and seen any changes that have occurred while you’ve been off being mum.
Checking your emails
While you’re on maternity leave and you’re getting used to being a mum, singing songs, washing baby grows and appreciating any full 30 minutes of sleep that you can get, your inbox will probably start to accumulate a silly amount of emails. If left until the day you return to work, this stack of emails will take you the whole day to get through. If you can, try to go through your emails a couple of times before you return to work. This will stop them from building up and it will also allow you to keep up to date with any changes that have been happening during your time off so you aren’t completely in the dark when you go back.
This is something that you have the right to request, but your employer is not obliged to agree. But part-time hours, working from home or finishing at a certain time each day may make your work-life balance much more manageable. It will allow you to spend more time with your baby or pick them up from childcare on time. If your employer accepts your request for flexible working hours they must do so in writing. You must request your flexible working hours before you return to work - it can take up to 14 weeks to come into effect too, so don’t be concerned if it doesn’t happen immediately.
If both you and your partner are going back to work and your child isn’t in full-time education yet you’ll need to find a suitable childcare arrangement.
There are a variety of options available:
- Informal childcare (a family member or friend looks after the child)
- Child minders
- A nanny
- Day nursery
- Children’s centre
The type of childcare that you choose to use will depend on a range of factors, cost being one of them. You’ll need to find out whether or not you are entitled to any childcare vouchers or any other financial help with childcare to ensure that you can afford it.
You’ll also need to consider:
- How far you’re willing to travel for childcare
- Whether or not you want the child minder in your house, or you want to take your children to theirs
- What happens during holidays?
If you’re worried about leaving your baby in childcare while you go to work, try using childcare for a couple of days before you actually go back. This will enable you to get over the initial worry of leaving your baby for the first time – and you can have some time to yourself to get on top of any tasks or errands that need to be done before work begins, such as buying new clothes or making lunches for the week. Another tip is to make some dinners for the week and then freeze them – by doing this you don’t have to worry about coming home after a full day at work and making a dinner from scratch.
Going back to work after maternity leave doesn’t have to be daunting. Keep in touch with your employer throughout your maternity leave to ensure that you’re up to date with any changes to the company – you still have the right to be told about any upcoming promotions and job vacancies while on maternity leave too.
But the most important thing to remember is that you’re human and you’re allowed to feel tired and scared and worried. But you’re also allowed to ask for help when you need it. Make the most of the procedures that are in place to support you going back to work and try to enjoy it!
What are your top tips for going back to work after maternity leave? We’d love to know.