Returning to work after maternity leave

Going back to work after having a child can be a daunting prospect. Here are some tips on easing yourself back into working life
by Bethan Rees

Returning to work following maternity leave can be a disruptive life adjustment. However, there are some things you can do to make this a smooth transition, reduce the stress and find a good equilibrium. Keeping in touchAccording to the UK government's 'Employee rights when on leave', employees can work up to ten days during maternity leave and these are known as keeping in touch (KIT) days. They are optional for both employee and employer, but if an employee chooses to take KIT, days the type of work and pay should be agreed in advance. ACAS explains how these days can be utilised. “KIT days could be used in situations where it would be beneficial for the employee to attend a work-related activity. For example, a training session or a team meeting. Alternatively, KIT days could be used to work part of a week, which could help the employee return to their role in a gradual way.”  

KIT days could be a good opportunity to stay engaged with the business and any major changes, while training and development could continue during leave. It’s also an occasion to simply catch up with your manager and colleagues. Know your rightsBefore returning to work, you should know all your rights regarding employment. First, the Money Advice Service (MAS) says you should give your employer eight weeks’ notice if you want to return to work earlier or later than the original agreed date. MAS explains that you have the right to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions, but your role might need to change because it’s not realistic anymore. “Sometimes it’s not practical to have exactly the same job, for example, if your role involved night shifts which you can’t do anymore”, says MAS. Also, if your role has been made redundant, you should be offered a suitable alternative. 

Going back to work full time might feel impossible following maternity leave, so you might consider asking for flexible working to improve your work-life balance. This could include job sharing, working from home, part-time working or staggered hours. 

According to Maternity Action, a charity on a mission to end inequality and improve the health and wellbeing of pregnant women, partners and young children, all employees have the right to request flexible working. It says: “All employees (including trainees and apprentices) have the legal right to make a request for changes to their hours of work, days of work or place of work providing that you have been employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks by the time you make your request, and you have not made a request for flexible work in the last twelve months (whether it was granted or refused).” 
Have a trial runMadeline Burry for The Balance Careers advises doing some preparation in the run-up to your first day back. “Prepare yourself for your new morning routine,” she writes. “Plan a trial run, complete with setting an alarm, dropping the baby off at childcare and commuting into the office … a trial run will give you time to work out any childcare kinks and develop your new routine with your baby.” 
Practise mindfulnessReturning to work without your baby might be an emotional or stressful time for you. To help combat feelings of being overwhelmed, distracted or down, it may be helpful to try and practise mindfulness. Lisa Abramson, co-founder of Mindfulness Based Achievement, writing for Lifehack, explains that “embracing those feelings and feeling them fully without judgement” could be beneficial. Also, she adds, “remember these powerful feelings are just signs of how much you love your little one”. For tips on how to practise mindfulness, see our article.
Talk to othersMany people have been in this position before, and it might help to speak to them about how they managed and adapted to going back to work. This might be a close friend or family member, a colleague at work or someone at a local support group. This is a good way to get advice and tips from those who have been in your situation and help tackle some of the challenges you’re facing. 

Have you returned to work following maternity? If so, please share your tips in the comments below. 

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Published: 10 May 2019
  • Career Development
  • The Review
  • maternity leave
  • work-life balance
  • mindfulness
  • advice

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