Going back to work after parental leave is different for everyone. Some people are eager to get back to their jobs and have a sense of routine and normality again, and some people are nervous about the change. Both are valid to feel, and everyone has their own journey with it.
But, no matter how you feel about returning to work, there are just a few things to know that can help you in the long run. Whether that’s help for your mental health, or figuring out your rights. Here are some places you can go to for support.
Your Rights: When Returning To Work
You have certain legal rights when returning from parental leave. It works the same for adoption leave. Such as being able to return to the same job or one that is reasonably similar, on the same or better pay as before you went on leave. You also have a right to make a flexible working request. This means asking to change your hours, such as reducing hours or requesting to work remotely. The Citizens Advice Bureau has some more details here.
Your Rights: If You Are Breastfeeding
Employers need to support you if you decide to carry on breastfeeding once you return to work. Going back to work does not mean you have to stop breastfeeding if you don’t want to. You could express milk to give to your childcare provider/ whoever is looking after your baby. Or request flexible working to make breastfeeding easier.
The NHS website has lots of useful information about returning to work and breastfeeding
Something To Think About: Childcare
Childcare is a big thing to think about and will make everything a lot easier for you, knowing you have plans sorted. This might mean finding a nursery place for your baby, or a place with a childminder. You might have family members who can look after your baby or a mixture of both. Even if you are working from home, you still need to have childcare. Some nurseries or childminders have waiting lists, so it is good to make enquiries as soon as you can.
You might be eligible for tax-free childcare. This means for every £8 you spend on your registered childcare provider, the government will pay £2. This can be very useful! You can check this through the gov.uk website.
Also, children of certain ages from eligible families can get a certain number of hours of childcare for free. Find out more here
If You Are Nervous About Going Back To Work
It is completely normal to feel nervous about returning to work. Try not to beat yourself up or listen to firmly to the intrusive thoughts that are coming your way.
The best thing to do is to talk to your manager about any concerns you may have before you return to work. They’ll be able to reassure you or provide answers to any questions you have.
It may also be a good idea to use your keep-in-touch days, known as KIT days, to get you back into work gently. Sometimes it can seem more daunting than it really is. Although big changes can be worrying, a lot of people find it helpful to have their work as a way of having a good work-life balance. It may offer you some time where you can take off your mum-hat and have your own identity.
What If You Decide Not To Go Back To Work?
Some people decide to delay their return to work, either to be a stay-at-home parent permanently. Or maybe just to take a bit of a longer career break. Looking after a little one can be a job in itself, so for some parents, the idea of staying at home through those crucial early years has a lot of appeal.
But, there are a few things to consider before you take that jump. It’s good to note that any extra time off is usually unpaid, so if you decide not to return to work this will affect your family in a few ways. You will need to consider your finances – can you afford to stop earning? Whether you are a single parent or have a partner who works, you will need to look at the numbers. It’s also good to think about the sort of work that you do. Will you be able to return in the future if you want to? Or maybe move into a similar job if you want to return to work one day?
Don’t make an impulsive decision on this one, take some time to think out all the answers.
Considering A Change Of Career
For a lot of people having a baby changes your life dramatically. This may mean your priorities change or your perspective changes. You may want to try something new. Or maybe you want to reduce your hours at your old job allowing you to try out a new role or a new venture.
If You Need Extra Support
Depending on your personal experience, there may be other factors that mean you need extra support. If you have had experience of PND, or a bereavement, or simply not spending much time with adults. It may be that you’ve had a career break for quite a few years and are nervous about the change. These things may have knocked your confidence. It is good to talk to friends and family who know you well, and it also may be helpful to look into counselling. It can be very helpful to talk through your worries with someone.
If you’re looking for support, but don’t know who to turn to, head over to our Mental Wellness & PND Support page. We’ve written up resources and sourced out charities that are ideal for you as
One Mum’s Story- Regaining Confidence
Helen Holding, Growth Marketing Assistant for Team Happity, shares her experience about going back to work:
I was excited to start my maternity leave. Although I enjoyed my job I was really looking forward to starting a new chapter. I loved having my baby girl. Three months into my maternity leave, my mum died very suddenly, and this came as a complete shock. We were very close. For a while, I did not think I’d be able to go back to work as I found the bereavement very difficult. But towards the end of my time off I started to think about other jobs I could do. I wanted to do something that I felt really helped people.
Luckily I was able to find a role that involves helping new families overcome loneliness at Team Happity. I feel that my experience can help others. My mum was a very positive person so I feel I am carrying on that positivity! Having a change in career was the best move for me, as it meant starting something new that I really enjoy, and I still really love my time with my baby, so I feel I have the best of both worlds. Working part-time means I can still enjoy our baby classes on my days off or at weekends which means a lot to me.
Only You Know What Is Best For Your Family
Only you know what is best for your family, so it is best to look at all the different options and decide what suits you. Every family is different and everyone’s career is different. What works for one family may not work for another, so do not feel you need to follow the exact same path as your friends. Then you’ll know you have made the best decision for you and your family.
Want to get out and about, have fun with your baby or toddler, and meet other parents?
Search Happity to find everything that’s happening for the under-5’s in your local area – from music and singing classes, to messy play, arts and crafts, baby massage, gymnastics and more. Simply enter your postcode and child’s age to search, and then book your spot in a few taps. Enjoy dedicated fun time with your little one, watch their skills develop, and make friends at the same time. Mums, dads, grandparents and carers will all find something to love!