Please note that these tips are tailored for those in the UK.
There are a number of things to consider if you intend to go back to work after having children. I have summarised here the top ten tips I found to be invaluable to me and some of my friends when we were preparing for a baby with the intention of going back to work. I hope you will find this as a useful guide to help you put things in place (including your mindset) when you decide to commence on your parenting journey. For those who already have kids, some of this tips may still be relevant to you too. Please feel free to add any additional tips that has helped you to transition from maternity leave to going back into employment in the comment box below.
An overriding factor is to ensure you are ready mentally before commencing on this journey. Your life changes when you have a child and you are suddenly responsible for another human’s life. I hope the tips below will contribute in helping you to prepare mentally.
I have split the blog into two as I realised it was a very long read. The first 5 tips can be found below and the next 5 will be published in my next blog.
- Read your company’s maternity policy. This so important and even more so if you intend on changing jobs before you start trying for a child. This is because some companies have caveats in their maternity policies that requires you to have spent a minimum amount of time working for them before you are entitled to the full pay benefit. You may however still be entitled to the statutory pay, but in most cases, this is significantly less than receiving your full pay for part of your maternity leave. In addition, being familiar with your maternity policy will help you begin to consider how long you can afford to stay off work. For example, the maternity policy of the firm I work for provides 18 weeks of full pay, which is the equivalent of four and a half months of full pay, after which I only received statutory maternity pay for another four and a half months. My friend on the other hand works for a company that provides nine months of full pay. Maternity leave policies vary depending on who you work for. Won’t it be useful if companies published their maternity policies publicly?
- Look around you, there is at least one working mum somewhere in your workplace. This reassures me all the time as there is precedence all around me. It tells me it is very possible to work and be a mum at the same time. Don’t feel shy, embarrassed or like a slacker when you find out you are pregnant. I felt all of these emotions at some point during my pregnancy. Thankfully, I soon abandoned the feeling and embraced the new me. In some cases, people will begin to treat you differently, either to overcompensate for you being pregnant and try to make life ‘easier’ for you, or they may even begin to start making plans for your absence, months before you are due to go on leave. This can be very disheartening, especially when you have worked very hard on a particular project and all of a sudden you can no longer see it to completion or someone else takes the glory for it because you are on leave and make it sound like they are doing you this huge favour! I don’t think I have any hard or fast tip for this one. You just need to condition your mind that there will never be a right time to leave your work to have a baby. You just have to press pause temporarily, and come back to another project that would get you equally excited. I must however say that the firm I work for are relatively good in this area. Largely, I didn’t feel like I was being kicked out before I left for my leave. Instead, I wanted to see the conclusion of some of my projects. It soon didn’t matter though, because I had the bigger more rewarding project of pushing a baby out of me to look forward to.
- No two pregnancies are the same! A friend may have confided in you about how difficult or beautiful her pregnancy was, or you may have read about this somewhere. Unfortunately, there is no certainty that you will have the same experience. It is not unusual for a woman to have varying experiences with different pregnancies. For example, I know of a lady who had a relatively smooth pregnancy with her son and while she was pregnant with her daughter, she found it more difficult. I have also heard of people who found the second pregnancy a lot easier. I would encourage you to stay positive but to have an open mind to adapt as the circumstances may require. Do not be disheartened if your pregnancy is not as you expect it to be. Speak to your doctor and your midwife and ask them for tips if you need any. Failing that, there are a number of baby groups designed for expecting mum. My favourite of which was the Baby Centre birth boards. I must say you get a mixed bag on forums like this but it is generally very useful to see that other mums are going through similar experiences and in some cases, worse, which could make you count your blessings.
- Don’t feel hurried to take the decision as to whether you want to go back into work full time or part-time. For those who are resident and work in the UK, by law, you are entitled to 12 months of maternity leave and you do not have to give your company notice of when you intend to go back to work, if you intend to go back at the end of the 12 months period. However, if you intend to go back to work prior to the 12 months elapsing, then your company will require 2 months notice. Your company is also not permitted by law to ask you whether or not you are returning and on what terms you intend to come back. I implore you to enjoy your maternity leave and use the time to connect with your baby. You may find that after this period of time you have no desire of going back to work or to go back part time. If that is the case then so be it. Just make sure you are taking informed decisions considering all facts of the circumstance as opposed to emotionally lead decisions. I say this because, I have had two types of conversations with people who gave up work for their children. The kind that are happy with the decision they made so many years ago (most of whom went back to work part-time) and the kind that wish they made a different decision and wished they at least went back to part-time employment because the children are now at university and they don’t have a lot to fill up their free time now. This is not to say that there aren’t people out there who are glad they did not go back to work. Decide what type of person you are and what will make you happy and do it.
- If you intend to go back to work full time, make use of your ‘Keeping In Touch’ (KIT) days. Generally, maternity policies in the UK will include up to 10 days of KIT days. This is to enable the employee to work without bringing to an end their maternity leave. They could use the days to attending team meetings, conferences, training and so on and they would generally be paid for the KIT days. It is important to note that employers are not obliged to provide KIT days and employees are not required to use them. However I recommend that you ask your employer if you intend to use your KIT days before you leave on your maternity leave. One thing to consider is the fact that you will most likely need childcare for the days you go into the office to ‘work’. It is however a good way of keeping in touch with work while you are on leave. It is something to consider but may not be right for everyone. I used 9 of my KIT days because in my firm, as an assistant manager (the position I was when I was on maternity leave) you were entitled to an intensive training which took place for three weeks a year for two years. I attended the first training and i did not want to delay the second training so I used my KIT days to attend two out of the three weeks of training and then completed the training when I went back to work full time. It was invaluable to me particularly because my line of business, tax, is very volatile and we have new rules in the UK all the time. Using my KIT days helped me to stay on top of things.
To be continued….