Returning to work after having a baby and enjoying a period of maternity leave can be a challenge for many mums; many who were previously employed on a full time basis opt to resume their duties part time instead, enabling them to balance the commitments to their family and their work more effectively.
Whether you take maternity leave for a couple of months or an entire year, thoughtful planning and open communication with your employer is key in order to achieve a smooth transition from home to work.
Adjusting to Change
For some mums returning to work involves a period of emotional upheaval as they adjust to the restructuring of their daily lives. Whereas the period of maternity leave will probably have been focused on the sole needs of their newborn baby, returning to work – even on a part time basis – means handing over responsibility for their child to someone else, whether it is a family member, a childminder or a nursery.
Planning for your return in advance will help you to manage the changes more effectively. A back-to-work plan, agreed with your employer, will stipulate how you will be reintegrated into the workplace, at what points you will resume your duties and how you can be supported in your new dual role of mother and worker.
www.mayoclinic.com/health/working-life/WL00034 is an excellent resource with tips for mums who are adjusting to returning to work.
Many options exist which fall under the heading of ‘flexible working’ which is effectively an alteration to your usual work pattern to enable you to fulfil the role of carer to your child, while supporting you to fulfil your workplace duties at the same time.
One of the most popular ‘flexible working’ patterns is part time work. This may mean a reduction in the daily hours or the number of days that you attend work (the latter being the more popular). This enables you as a new mum to share your commitments to your family and to your employer – and, of course, retaining a portion of your income.
It is worth noting that your employer does not have to automatically grant you part time working although your request must be considered seriously. To deny you a part time job if you were previously employed full time, your employer would have to demonstrate that the business would be damaged if you were granted a flexible working option. Any refusal to allow you to work part time could be regarded as discrimination so taking advice from an experienced employment advisor is critical.
See www.adviceguide.org.uk for details of how to find an advisor.
Bear in mind that the process of switching your contract to part time can take up to 14 weeks and so discussing your preferences with your employer at the earliest opportunity is sensible.
For details of your rights when returning to work consult www.nidirect.gov.uk/statutory-maternity-leave-returning-to-work.
You may decide that continuing in your previous role is not an option and to seek a part time job elsewhere. Some mums choose to find part time jobs nearer to home so that they can achieve a home-worklife balance on the days when they are working. Local job boards for your area like http://www.gatwickdiamondjobs.com/ might work better for this than large nationwide sites which list millions of jobs.
Remember when applying to new roles that your previous skills and experiences are the key factors that will help to secure your appointment. It is worth having a firm plan in mind for how your baby will be cared for when you are required to be at work so that you can address this point if asked during the recruitment process.
Returning to work part time, either in your existing role or for a new employer, is a positive way to ensure that you contribute to your household income while caring for your baby, while also helping to provide you with a sense of purpose that enables you to be yourself, without an infant in tow.