How to apply for part time work after maternity leave

Becoming a mother undoubtedly has an effect on your attitude to work. Each of us has to achieve the right balance between caring for our child and maintaining financial security. For many of us that means moving to part time hours. In this article we look at what you need to consider in requesting part time hours after maternity leave.

smart mum in a suit on her mobile with laptop and baby on lap


As a new mum, there are two main points at which you might consider moving to part-time hours. The first is during pregnancy, when you start planning your maternity leave and how things will work once the baby arrives. Many women decide that part time hours are the best way to maintain their career while having time at home with their child.

The second point is during maternity leave. You may have always planned to return to work full time, but as the prospect gets nearer you decide to apply for part-time hours.

Either way, the process is similar. Every employee – whether at work or on maternity leave – has the right to request part-time hours or other flexible working arrangements.

Reducing hours after maternity leave

If you decide that on returning to work after maternity leave, part time will be the best option, you need to put a request in writing.

To do this you’ll need to be clear about the hours you want to work, so think carefully about what will be best in terms of both your working patterns and how much you need to earn.

Bear in mind that part-time hours are not the only option open to you. Could compressed hours, remote working or job sharing work as an alternative approach? For more on these options, see our flexible working section.

Returning to work after maternity leave – letter

Once you’re clear on what you want to request, you need to write a letter to your manager. Some companies have a standard form to complete. Either way, you need to provide the following information:

  • the date
  • that this is a statutory request
  • details of the part-time hours you want to work and when you want to start
  • an explanation of how you think this new approach might affect the business and how this could be dealt with
  • a statement saying whether (and when) you’ve made a previous application for part-time/flexible hours.

See our template letter for guidance on how to write the application.

How your employer will respond

Your employer then has up to three months to make the decision. By law they must give it ‘reasonable consideration’ – but there are a number of situations that will entitle them to reject your question. Generally, if there’s a discernible impact on the business from your request, they can say no. The full list of reasons is on the government website.

Your employer needs to respond to you in writing. If the request is accepted, your contract will be updated to reflect the new arrangements.

If your request is rejected and you believe that it wasn’t given reasonable consideration, you can appeal. This isn’t a statutory right, but most employers will be happy to respond to your appeal and explain their position. If you’re still unsatisfied you can complain to an employment tribunal.

Returning to work after maternity leave

Going back to work can be a little nerve wracking. It’s often the first time you’re leaving your baby for more than a couple of hours, and it’s normal to wonder if you can remember how to do your job!

Use your Keep In Touch days in the run up to returning to work so that you feel informed about anything that’s changed while you’ve been away, and to catch up with your colleagues.

Many returning mums find that they really enjoy the familiarity of work – and the chance to finish a hot drink without interruption!

For more tips and advice, see our returning to work section.

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