Returning To Work

Whether you are at the end of your maternity leave or you’ve taken a career break, returning to work can be one of the biggest decisions you make and confidence can play a big part in the decision-making process. This section is full of tips, ideas and advice on boosting your confidence for a return to work - plus you can access information about great new returner programmes recruiting now.

Leaving work to have a baby is a daunting time, with so many uncertainties about what the coming weeks will bring. And many of us find going back to work at the end of maternity and parental leave just as challenging. Not only will you need to catch up on all the changes while you were away, but you have the additional emotional pressure of being away from your child.

Returning to work after maternity leave

You will have confirmed your return date before starting maternity or parental leave. You can change your mind about your return date, but you must give at least eight weeks’ notice for the change. Do consider whether to use some annual leave to give you a phased return, rather than heading straight back in to full time work.

The best advice when you’re returning to work is to be kind to yourself. Don’t set too-high expectations. Accept that you might find the first days challenging, and that it takes you longer than anticipated to get back into the swing of things.

Equally, don’t feel guilty if you enjoy being back at work – you’re not just ‘Mum’ (or Dad). Lots of us do treasure the chance to drink a coffee in peace and have a gossip with colleagues. Work can also be more rewarding than parenting in many ways, and that’s OK!

Rights on returning to work

If you are returning to work after 26 weeks or less you are entitled to return to exactly the same job as you were doing before the start of your leave. If you’ve taken more than 26 weeks’ maternity leave and your employer has a good business reason why you cannot return to the same job, they can offer you a suitable alternative job on the same terms and conditions.

Asking for flexible working upon your return to work

Whatever you’re feeling about returning to work from maternity leave, many of us do find that the way we worked pre-children is no longer feasible. There are childcare arrangements to manage and new personal preferences about having more time at home.

As a result, many returning parents decide to request more flexible working arrangements. Some apply for flexible working before departing for maternity or parental leave, while others seek a new approach once they have returned to work.

There are plenty of flexible options open to you, from part-time working and job sharing to working from home. While your employer doesn’t have to agree to your request, they have to give it fair consideration.

Requesting flexible working involves writing a letter to your employer.

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Getting back to work in a new job

Of course, not all of us return to work in the same job that we held before parental leave. Starting a brand new job after maternity leave can feel very stressful: but don’t forget, you’ve mastered childbirth and caring for a newborn. A new job should be easy in comparison.

Remember that your focus in week one should be to make a good impression. People won’t expect you to instantly be a top performer, but they will be looking for enthusiasm, positivity and interest.

If there isn’t a formal induction process, try to get some time in with each member of your team to get to know them, understand their role and how they will work with you. That should include your manager; make sure you’re clear on what they expect from you and how you should approach anything you’re not sure of.

Most new jobs will involve a probation period. Make sure that you know how long that period is and check it’s stated in your contract. It’s important to know that while you’re on probation, you still have the same employee rights as any other employee.

Returning to work after a career break

Some parents choose to take a career break to spend more time with young children, rather than pay for childcare. Returning to work after a number of years can be a very daunting prospect. It can also take time to decide what type of job will suit you best on returning to work. It’s an important decision, so take time to give it proper consideration.

In applying for jobs, be open and transparent about your career break: this is relatively common in the workplace today and it’s unlawful for employers to discriminate against those who have taken a break.

It always helps to write a cover letter when applying for a new role and this is especially true after a break. Use the letter to focus on your strengths and skills and why they would be suited to the vacancy. Once you’ve successfully applied for a role, have a look at our interview tips to refresh your skills.

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Returner Programmes

Returner programmes are formal schemes offered by employers that provide training and opportunities to people who have taken time out of work. These programmes, sometimes called returnships, are designed to help close the gender pay gap and improve diversity in the workplace.

There are schemes in place for many types of role including social workers, civil servants and health professionals.

You will need to apply for a place on this kind of programme, but you don’t necessarily need to have any background in the selected field. Transferable skills and experience will be relevant, however. Visit our returner programme section to see who is recruiting now.

Whatever your return to work situation, remember that it’s likely to be easier than you think.  We wish you the best of luck!

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