Heading back to work from maternity leave? Rejoining the workplace after a long break can leave you riddled with anxiety!
Going back to work after maternity leave is the start of an exciting new chapter for you and your family. It’s an opportunity to rediscover yourself – the career driven you. And even if the highlight of your first day is having a cup of tea in peace (we hope), we’ve provided a few tips and answers to common questions below, that should hopefully help to ease the process of returning to work after caring for your little one.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to give my employer notice of when I will return to work?
You should have agreed a return date with your employer before you went on maternity leave, but you can always change your mind during leave. If this is the case, you will have to inform your employer 8 weeks before your proposed return date.
If you take all the maternity leave that you are legally entitled to (Ordinary Maternity Leave plus Additional Maternity Leave), you are due back to work after the end of the 52 week period. If you want to take less leave than this, you must give notice to return as you would be returning early.
What if my job role has changed?
Don’t assume that everything will be exactly how it was when you return back to work. Six months or a year out is a long time, and there may have been changes at work that affect your role. You have the right to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions after your maternity leave – however, sometimes it’s simply not practical to have exactly the same job.
If this is the case, your employer must offer you alternative work with the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been away – the terms and conditions should be as good as your previous role.
If your role has been made redundant, you should be offered a suitable alternative vacancy.
What about pay conditions?
You have the right to receive any pay rises or improvements in terms and conditions for your job that took place while you were on leave.
Am I still entitled to the same holidays?
Your holiday entitlement builds up while you are on maternity leave in the same way it would if you were at work. If you haven’t added it all to your maternity leave, you often have the right to take whatever is remaining from your annual leave.
Am I entitled to flexible working?
If you worked continuously for your employer for at least 26 weeks before your maternity leave, you are entitled to ask for a flexible working pattern upon your return. This can help you balance caring for your child and work. Your employer must consider your request and respond to you in writing.
Note: You have the right to ask for this, but you don’t have the right to have it.
What about parental leave?
If you’ve worked for your employer for more than one year, you have the right to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave for each child, up to their 18th birthday in most cases.
You might take parental leave to:
- Look at schools
- Spend time with your child
- Spend time visiting family
- Settle children into new childcare arrangements
It doesn’t have to be used in one period of time, but must be in one week-long blocks, unless your child has a disability. The most each parent can take each year is up to 4 weeks per child, unless you have agreed an alternative with your employer.
Returning to the workplace
Refresh your wardrobe
You may have been sticking to comfort over style during your time off, so a refresh of your wardrobe could be the transformation you need to give your confidence a boost before you head back to work. Treat yourself to a new outfit for your first day, and take some time to revisit your pre-pregnancy outfits as an option!
Simulate your return to work beforehand
Have a dry run before you actually return to work so it’s not as much a shock to the system when it actually happens. Set your alarm, get up and get dressed, and test how long it takes you from childcare to work at the time you would normally do it. This helps you adjust to the likes of traffic etc. for your first day, and get a better understanding of what needs to be done before you leave for work.Trust us, you’ll feel much better on the day, knowing you’ve already done it all previously.
Take it easy…
Getting used to the idea of being away from your newborn isn’t easy. Diving in to the deep end could be difficult, so you do have alternatives that can help ease the process.
Use holiday accrued during your mat leave to phase a return to full time work. Maybe work two or three days a week and use your leave for the other remaining days? Try to begin your return to work mid-week so that you only have two to three days before your first weekend break. Doing this will help you look after yourself e.g. emotionally and physically, as well as being able to spend time with your child regularly.
Reconnect with a colleague
Call or email one of your colleagues for a chat so you can get caught up on what’s been happening while you’ve been away. Having someone there who can give you the lowdown on what’s happened is the perfect way to get back on track.
Try not to miss them too much
Being away from your child is hard, but try to embrace being back at work with your colleagues. You want them to see that you are happy to be back at work and are 100% committed to your job. Don’t dwell on any negative feelings you have towards being back at work, and you should be able to work through them.
If you’d like a more realistic anecdote about returning to work, read this.
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