If you’ve been on maternity leave for some time, the thought of going back into a full time world of work may be less than appealing right now. Getting back into a suit after months of sleepless nights and dirty nappies is going to be a big change, but thankfully there are ways you can make it easier on yourself.
Knowing your rights as a new mum wanting to go back to work can put you in a strong position to make this change a gradual one. Here’s what you need to know.
Going back to the same job
As long as you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks (including the time spent on maternity leave) your employer has an obligation to give you back the same job you had before, with all the same terms and benefits. If, for some reason, your job is no longer available, maybe because of redundancies or reorganisation, they should offer you a similar position with equal or better pay and conditions.
If they are unable to do this, for whatever reason, you have the right to claim redundancy pay.
Changing your working hours
As a new mum, you have the right to request different working hours, if your previous hours are no longer suitable. If, for example, you were previously a night shift worker, you can request that you are moved onto a daytime shift, to fit in better with your new family life.
You can also request flexible working hours or to come back part time. By law, your employer is obliged to seriously consider this request, and unless there is a clear business reason for refusing, they should aim to meet your needs.
To request different or flexible working hours, you should make a written application to your employer, and arrange a meeting to discuss your request within 28 days. It can take up to 14 weeks to set up flexible working, so make sure you apply in good time if you think this is the route you would like to take.
What are your options for flexible working?
Thanks to high speed internet, call diverting technology and advanced collaboration software, you no longer need to be in the office to be doing your job. The modern world of communications has opened up a range of options which could suit you better as you make your gradual return to work. You could consider:
- Working part time
- Working at home for all or part of your hours
- Job sharing, with someone similarly qualified
- Flexi time, where you choose when you work as long as you work all your hours over the week or month
- Staggered hours, giving you a different start and finish time to fit in with your baby
- Compressed hours, where you work all your hours but over less days of the week
- Annualised hours, where you work out your hours over the entire year, and work them to fit in with your lifestyle
You can request any of these options, or indeed a combination of options from your employer. Your employer is not obliged to agree, and will usually make a decision based on the needs of the business as well as your own needs.
Having a workable childcare solution in place early on is crucial to getting back to work. Whether you intend to start back one day a week or straight into full time, knowing that your baby is somewhere they are happy and secure can make all the difference to a working mum.
Start your search for a great nursery or daycare provider early, and do a few trial runs before you actually return to work. You have the right to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave until your child is aged 18, so if you need to, make use of this to give your child a gradual start to their new lives as well.
If you think your employer is not being fair, you can contact ACAS for advice on 0300 123 1100. You should also check out the useful information on the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) and Maternity Action if you need further help.