Hopefully this post by a reader can help some of you when you return from maternity leave, to make sure you get everything you deserve.
It can be a strange and difficult time when your maternity leave comes to an end. After spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for perhaps a whole year, with your new baby – you now have to leave him or her for around nine hours a day, five days a week.
Among dirty nappies and sleepless nights, work has probably been the last thing on your mind. However, as the final weeks start to disappear far too quickly, concerns about leaving your baby and going back to work have no doubt moved to the forefront.
As much as you are longing for adult conversation, waving goodbye to your baby as you set off for a day of emails and admin, rather than nursery rhymes and baby talk, will be one of the most difficult things you ever have to do. Particularly that first day, when you will no doubt struggle to do any work as you mind wanders off to thoughts of your little bundle of joy.
OK, so you know going back to work will be hard but do you know your rights?
It may not be quite as easy to slip back into your old role as you are imagining – there have been huge changes in your life and a lot can change in a year – so things could be quite different in your workplace as well.
In general you have the right to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions following your maternity leave. However, sometimes it just isn’t practical to have exactly the same job role. In this case, you should be offered a similar job on terms and conditions at least as good as your previous role.
If your role has become redundant you should be offered a suitable alternative vacancy. If there isn’t one, you may be entitled to redundancy pay.
Talking about pay – you have the right to receive any pay rises or improvements in terms of conditions for your job that took place while you were on leave. Likewise, your holiday entitlement builds up while you are on maternity leave in the same way it would if you had been at work. You could add this onto your maternity leave but, if you haven’t, you do have the right to take what is left.
You may have had every intention of going back to work full time when you left ahead of the birth but, now you are actually a mum you may feel differently. You may hate the thought of having to leave your baby all week and would rather just work a couple of days so you can spend more time with him or her. You do actually have the right to request flexible working – however, your employer is under no obligation to agree to it. You must also have been working for your employer for at least 26 weeks (including maternity leave) in order to request this. Click here to find out more about flexible working and your rights once you are back at work.
Now, you know your rights – it is time to decide what you want and what is best for both you and your new baby! Which is, perhaps, easier said than done.
See my disclaimer.