Research by the Working Families and the National Childbirth Trust revealed that 39% of women found going back to work after having a baby ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ – and 31% said their relationship with their boss had deteriorated. But you can take positive steps to make your return to work easier. We spoke to Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families, to get her advice on making going back to work easier.
Sarah said: ‘The majority of people have a positive experience returning to work after maternity leave. They have their baby, come back to work and it’s fine. But it does need planning – most problems are avoidable if planning is in place.’
What’s the problem?
Sarah says anxiety is the biggest problem with maternity leave and returning to work: ‘Women don’t know what to expect, especially if it’s their first baby. The research showed that 1 in 3 people have problems with the relationship with their boss, it’s about getting this relationship right.
‘A lot of problems can be avoided with good communication and planning. The boss might be anxious too – they may not have ever managed a pregnant person before, it’s not what they’ve been trained to do.
‘There’s lots unknown – but you do know your job. Get planning in place and it makes things easier.’
Preparating for your return
Sarah says communication is key: ‘Before you go on maternity leave, have a conversation with you boss, get planning and lay the foundations for a successful return.
‘Know your rights, but don’t go in aggressively saying “I want my rights”. Have a conversation to make sure you’re going to get the support you need during your pregnancy and plan your return.’
Here are some more things to consider before you leave, while you’re away and when you get back:
* KIP days: You may be able to have Keep In Touch (KIP) days – which is when (in some jobs) you’re able to work up to 10 days without losing your maternity pay. If you are considering KIP days, talk to your boss about the best days for you to come in, is there training or team away days you could be involved in? Get more info about KIP days and your maternity rights.
* Flexible working: Before you go away you might not know what you want when you come back. Explore the options of flexible working before you go – but don’t trigger a formal decision. If while you’re on maternity leave you decide you want flexible hours, you have a right to request it – but your work doesn’t have to give it to you. Have a conversation and put yourself in your bosses’ shoes and see if you can find a solution that will work for both of you. Come up with positive suggestions – you know your job and you know whether it might be possible to work flexible hours or to work from home.
* Health and safety: While you’re pregnant your work need to do health and safety checks. You’re entitled to paid time off for ante-natal classes and you shouldn’t feel uneasy about that.
* Get the right support: Keep conversations going between you and your boss and make sure you’re not in the dark. You shouldn’t feel concerned about how you’re going to be treated.
* Communication while you’re away: Sort out a level of communication that you’re comfortable with for while you’re away. Make sure things are set up so you won’t be worried about work – and you’ll be able to give your full attention to your baby, your partner and yourself. You don’t want to feel left out of the loop but you also don’t want to be dreading every time the phone rings.
* When you’re back at work: Organise a meeting with your boss 2-4 weeks after you get back to check things are going OK – make sure you keep communicating.