5 Things You Need to Consider Before Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave

There are lots of things to consider when going back to work after maternity leave. It's a pretty scary prospect when you've had months off, in a beautiful baby bubble that you might not want to pop. 

Maternity Leave: Know Your Rights

Let's start with the nitty gritty. According to The Citizens' Advice Bureau, "You have a right to take up to a year of maternity leave. It doesn't matter how long you've worked for your employer, how much you're paid or how many hours a week you work. "

Your boss should assume that you'll take the full 52 weeks. And though many of us will need to return to work earlier than this (probably because the statutory mat pay ends after 39 weeks), it's worth bearing in mind that you'll need to give at least eight weeks' notice to do so. 

If you're heading back to work after 26 weeks or less (around six months-ish), you're entitled to sail right back into the same job. And if you're returning after six months (26 weeks), you've still got every right to return to your role unless your boss has a good reason why not. If you're wondering what those reasons might be, we're talking about the instance that your employer has made significant changes in the organisation while you were on mat leave, meaning that your job role may have changed. Don't worry. Your boss can't decide to keep your mat leave cover permanently in your position while shuffling you into something else. 

If, for some unlikely reason, your boss doesn't offer you your job back, then you may have a claim for unfair or automatic dismissal or maternity discrimination, and I'd advise you to seek legal advice. But be warned, you only have three months to make a claim. 

Do You Need Your Job To Change After You’ve Had Your Baby?

Going back to work after maternity leave is daunting, and you may find you need your job to change. So many new mothers returning to work will need their jobs to adjust to be more flexible. Get that conversation started early. Can you do flexible hours? Could you work from home? Do you need to reduce your hours temporarily or perhaps permanently? 

The Surrey commute into London was far too much for me after my daughter was born. I had been enduring a 4-hour round trip door to door for years before I had kids, and the thought of doing that again daily still fills me with absolute dread – I'd never get to see my kids. Thank God for people like Anna Whitehouse, aka Mutha Pukka, who campaigns for flexible working with her campaign Flex Appeal

If you need free legal advice on any aspect of mat leave or your job role, call the Working Families hotline: 0300 012 0312.

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End of Mat Leave: What Are My Childcare Options?

I had to work through my mat leaves (I didn't get one either time), but I was lucky enough to work flexibly from home. I managed the juggle with a baby on board until about five months, when I had to hand my child over to a childminder, 9-5, Monday to Friday. For some, that might seem like an unthinkable prospect, and yes, it was bloody tough, so it's wise to think about your options way ahead of time. We were lucky, we met Jess, our wonderful childminder, and we've just had to say goodbye as our youngest starts school in September, and we've both found it tough. She's been a huge part of all our lives, and it's been a great experience for the kids. 

In hindsight, being away from their mummy from an early age was very tough for me, but it enriched their lives no end. They're confident kids who are happy to mix with children of all ages and wave goodbye with a smile while heading into a new summer camp, social situation, party or kids' club without knowing anybody – all the things I was terrible at as a child, thanks to separation anxiety. While I feel I missed out, the upside is that they've developed social skills that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. 

It's not for everybody; you have to do what feels best for you and what's best for your child, and at the very end of the day, it might not be what you want, but in my case, the mortgage needed paying, there weren't any other options. Don't get me wrong - there are lots of upsides to going back to work after maternity leave, some women find they're itching to get back to a bit of normality, to have something for themselves. And that's absolutely OK and normal too!

Keep your options open. Find out what works for you. Make sure you visit your local nurseries and check out Childcare.co.uk for childminders, nannies and more. 

Returning to Work: Breastfeeding and Things To Consider

So many mothers continue breastfeeding well after the first year, and if that's something you intend on doing, it's worth considering how to make this work – at work. 

Have a chat with your boss so you can establish a pumping schedule that fits around your day. Agree on a quiet and private space at work, and invest in a great hands-free pump. I'd recommend the Medela Freestyle, a hands-free double electric wearable breast pump, or the original super-quiet pump from Elvie

You'll need to plan your wardrobe so you can pump with ease. Make sure you stay hydrated and pack a load of healthy snacks. You can do this!  And if you are doing this, you are an absolute hero. I was hooked up to a Medela hospital-grade pump until five months with both of my kids. My breast supply wasn't great, and I desperately tried to improve it through pumping. It's tricky making it work when you've got to work! 

Your Mental Wellbeing

When it comes to going back to work after maternity leave, your priority aside from your baby should be your own mental well-being. Please, please, please factor this into every decision you make – whether it's returning to work early, pumping at work, going back to the long commute, or how you'll feel for long periods away from your baby. 

Going back to work after having kids is hard, so go easy on yourself and whatever you decide to do, leave the mum guilt behind. Take it from one who knows; it serves absolutely no purpose. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

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