Back to work 101

Back To Work


It’s September and for some parents who have taken a career break while their children are very young September marks the start not just of the school year, but of their return to work.

Returning to work after a career break can seem like an uphill struggle.’s research shows that the three main barriers are confidence, childcare and flexible working. While much attention has been focused on returner programmes over the last few years – and these are very welcome and are helping to change attitudes generally to returners – there are only places for a very small number of those who have taken time out of their career to raise children, for whatever reason this might be.

So how do you overcome some of these barriers? has a variety of resources to help you as well as many case studies. Our returners page has details of returner schemes, comeback stories and news and features on returners, including a review of the recent book, She’s Back: your guide to returning to work, which is full of practical advice and suggestions.

If confidence is an issue, coach Emma-Louise O’Brien has some advice.

If childcare costs are holding you back, the following article has information on some ways of cutting the costs.  If flexible childcare is an issue, you can seek advice from your local authority’s family information service. They will have a list of childminders in your area, but they may be stretched. This article gives some other ideas.

Flexible working is another way of cutting childcare costs, particularly if you have a partner who can also reduce or flex their hours. It can be daunting, though, trying to find a new flexible job when few are openly advertised. The following article has advice.

For those returning to work after maternity or Shared Parental Leave, there are many similar issues. Instead of looking for a flexible new role, however, you may be trying to negotiate flexibility in your current role.  But what if your manager is resistant to flexible working? You will need to prepare well and make a good business case. If you get into difficulties and feel you are facing discrimination, you can contact our panel of employment law experts who will give advice via email through our Advice and Support page box.

You may also want to consider other ways to ease your return to work. For instance, you continue to accrue holiday during maternity and Shared Parental leave. You could negotiate with your employer to use some of this to effectively return to work on a part-time basis for the first few weeks to give yourself time to adapt and get your childcare and work routines up and running.

Most people who have taken a significant period of time out of the workplace will face challenges – both logistical and emotional – to adapt to life back at work. It can be a good idea to seek out colleagues or talk to friends in other organisations and ask them for suggestions. You could also consider joining any employee support networks that your employer may have or that may exist in your sector generally. If there is no support network where you work,  you could also consider setting one up with colleagues and contacting those running similar networks in other organisations in your sector.

Talking to other parents you can share tips on making it all work, including outsourcing, delegating or sharing daily tasks. runs articles regularly about best practice in flexible and family friendly working and female career progression. You can find these on the news and views pages or in our Employers Hub. Alternatively, you could contact us direct on [email protected].

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