High Ho High Ho, it’s back to work us mummies go…

… because maternity leave must to come and end.

For many mummy’s the thought of going back to work is hard. I for one had so many thoughts, so many worries and fears running through my head, but all the while was excited at the prospect that being back at work would allow me to find my pre-pregnancy identity. Because, well let’s be honest since being a mum, trying to be who I used to be was not the case anymore and even trying to search for that person wasn’t easy. But I really have missed her. I miss who I was, that identity I had. So, I was looking forward to going back to work as it may help in that department.

Now I am the kind of person who likes to when, what, how, who, where in advance otherwise I just worry and it really doesn’t help with my anxiety when I am not prepared so for me knowing when I would go back to work was really important as I knew what to expect when the time came. When I say ‘I knew what to expect’ for me it was more of a mental thing as I could start to mentally prepare myself as well as get things into order such as childcare finances etc.

Before maternity leave

Every organisation has their own policy around Maternity leave so first and foremost I would advise that you read it. You do not have to be pregnant to be interested to give it a read, it is important that employees are aware of policies at the workplace says the HR lady haha. But on a serious note as employees of your organisation being made aware of your company’s absence policy for example is good knowledge to have and when in doubt approach your HR team. After all that is what they are there for.

A woman is entitled to take by law should she wish up to 52 weeks maternity leave this is made up of 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave and then 26 weeks additional maternity leave. I personally took a full year s plus was able to take more time off by using my accrued unused holiday from the year I went on maternity leave carrying on into the following year when I was due back. HR and line managers assume that their female employees who are due to go on maternity leave will take 52 weeks (1 year) then come back to work. Now not all woman go back to work after a year as some return much earlier at 6 months or 10 months after their baby is born. There are also some mummies who decide to not go back all together. As a mummy that is your choice and it is important that you make the right one.

As mummies you can also change your return to work date to an earlier date or to a later date. You do have to give notice 8 weeks before your previously confirmed return to work date in writing.

Is your job guaranteed and waiting for you after you finish your maternity leave?

By law, if you have decided to take maternity leave for less than 26 weeks you have the right to return back to your old job.

If you go back to work after taking maternity leave for over 26 weeks if your job is no longer there i.e. been made redundant or if the job has changed due to a company restructure and is completely different to what the role was when you were in it i.e. is now full time but when you were working in it, it was part time then your organisation must provide you with a job that is similar to what your role was. However, if your job is still there then that is your job and it is yours. Your employer cannot not offer you the role.

What organisations may do is recruit individuals on a fixed term contract basis to complete the necessary tasks of your role. These people are made aware that the role is maternity cover upon applying as that is what it will have been advertised and its duration.

Remember by law, your employer cannot dismiss you on the basis that you become pregnant or on the basis you decide to take a full year of maternity leave or on anything maternity related as that is maternity discrimination. As returning mummies we are protected by the law and have the right to return back to work.

How does the whole maternity pay work?

That I will talk about in a separate blog post as these things are good to know.

Whilst on maternity leave…

As a mummy who has just given birth, you are still employed and so this means your salary will remain the same as will your benefits such as pension, healthcare insurance etc and you will be entitled to receive any bonuses and commissions that are due to you.

Not only that you are entitled to use 10 Keeping in Touch days which means that whilst on your maternity leave you can go to work for a day or two to work, for team meetings or for work related catch ups and be paid that day at your daily rate based on your annual salary on top of your maternity pay. These days are good as its a great way to stay in the loop about the changes in an organisation and within your team but also a great way to help you to get back into the work flow because wellbeing out of work for a full year and in mum mode can make things a little bit complicated haha – talking from experience here hehe 

Keeping in touch days continued…

Out of my 10 KIT days I used 1 and I really wished I used more. The 1 KIT day I used I enjoyed, it felt great for me to be back in the work environment, with my colleagues. I felt like how I used to feel at work and not going to lie made me miss work. I have always been the type of person who works really hard and is perhaps a bit too hard on herself, so I did feel guilty that I was not at work and missed out on so much change that had happened in the year I was on leave. But then once I was home, I forgot all about it because my daughter took up all of my time and well she makes everything better hehe

I think I would have arranged more KIT days and I wanted to after the 1 I already used which was in January 2019 as I was eager to use days in February 2019 but it was finding the time to leave Soraiya with her dad who was pretty much working so yeah guess it never happened.

It is important to be aware that as a mummy you are not obligated to use your KIT days. Some mummies use the 1 or 2, some use them all and some use none.

Thinking about changing your working pattern?

Flexible working… is so important and so beneficial for parents both mummies and daddies alike.

As a returning mum back to work it was a given that I may ask for my working pattern to change or to work more flexibly such as from home.

It is important that as soon as you decide you want to make a change to your work pattern that you notify your employer as the process of approval can take time. You can either put in a formal flexible working request or an informal request.

Flexible working request… the DL

Formal flexible working request

When putting in a formal request, most organisations have a policy on it so have a read, if unsure get in touch with your HR team to guide you on this because they may advise you go about this informally. Now with submitting a formal flexible work request as per many policies within an organisation you may have to
1. complete a form or put this in writing
2. forward onto HR and your line manager
3. HR or your line manager gets in touch to arrange an initial meeting to discuss your request with both HR and your line manager present. HR will explain the process and what the next stages are
4. a decision will then be made within 3 months of the first initial meeting and passed onto you in a letter

It is important to be aware that employers do not always agree to the flexible working request as they have to take into account the business need so should they reject the flexible working request they must explain clearly, in a letter the reasons why. You as an employee do have the right to appeal and this will be explained in the letter from HR and in the relevant policy. Now, as an employee you will have to wait after 12 months of your most recent flexible working request until you can make another request.

Informal flexible working request

This is basically as it states, informal so can be made through an email, a phone conversation or in a face to face catch up/1:1. Most employees opt for this approach first before going down the formal route.

I think most may feel comfortable to do this if
a) they have a great relationship with their line manager to be able to discuss these things
b) if the business an employee works in is small so the employee will have better understanding as to how best their flexible working request may benefit on a strategic level
c) they are unaware of any formal process

Going down this route has it’s advantages as first it is not a formal request so no time limit as to when you may want to re-look at the request or discuss it again also I feel this gives you and your line manager better time to discuss this together to work out how it will work and if not, both looking at other alternatives on both your terms.

So what did I do?

Well I wanted to go back part time and I had my conversation with my line manager when I did my KIT day back in January 2019. So way in advanced as I wanted my line manger to have enough time to put the request in and for the procedure of approval to go through as I know these things take time. I also thought it was the perfect time to discuss as to my line manager’s thoughts on it – who totally understood where I was coming from and why and also a great to talk about other things to do – which we did hehe

I think when discussing things face to face especially about very important issues such as this it’s important as then all questions are asked and the base is covered as much as possible.

Upon discussing this with my line manager she was on board with it and very supportive which is just how line manager should be. I read in an article I in People Management magazine (October 2019 issue) that many mum’s feel that if they were able to work flexibly it would help them to develop their careers more but also that many employees who work flexibly feel like their superiors/line managers do not see the advantage of it but see it is more as a disadvantage. And I am not going to lie I felt my manager would feel the same but that was not the case.

My line manager had a hunch I may ask for this and she was not surprised . After all, new mum, back at work, wants to work Part Time – you work out the math. My line manager assured me she would do everything in her power to get this approved as she had a plan and hoped it would go smoothly….

aaaaaaaandd it didn’t! But that didn’t mean that was the end of it because what is important is looking at possible next options and that is what we did.

At the moment I am working full time and have been able to work flexibly from home when needed and I thought it was going well but after a while it became really hard. Childcare for one is really expensive. I wish my mum lived near me so that I could continue working full time because well I need money haha but my mum lives on the other side of London.

What is so important to understand is having a supportive team working with you. Having been back after year working with my manager and colleagues, I cannot fault it. I have felt so comfortable and really felt like I could get back into my role but also having a supportive team who understand the struggles of being a mum with a baby is really nice as they are on hand to help and offer words of encouragement.

With working full time, no sleep, drop off/pick up from nursery, it has really taken its toll. Its more the stress and pressure of it all. And with someone who has anxiety it doesn’t help. I say this because it is so important that we as humans do not push ourselves. If only we were superheroes ey. You can try and try to push but in the end you will give out whether it be physically or mentally. But if you can do it then that is great, and you should do what you feel like you need to do as a parent and for yourself.

Being back at work, you would be surprised just how much you remember as I was. I was rusty but I picked it up well and it feels great when I am at work. I feel free, I feel like things are in order and I feel like me again. I feel I have this other purpose aside from being a mum.

What is next for me?

I have realised that for me working part time is the way. I want to spend time working and also with my daughter. As Soraiya gets bigger she will become ill, need me in many ways and well how much longer will my daughter need me? I mean don’t we all strive to be independent and do our own thing so I want to make the most of the time I have with her. Also would help me get certain people off my back but I am not doing this for them but for me. But also in all honestly childcare is expensive and I cannot afford it.

So, I just need to work with my line manager in getting closer to this and inshAllah next year things will be different.

Your experience…

As mums and parents, we should lift one another up where we can. Parenting is no walk on the park and if we don’t best understand each other’s struggles and be able to relate to one another then who can?

So, I would love to know your experience that is if you want.

Lots of love

Yours Always,

The Soul Tamer x

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