Returning to work

I checked back at our old More Than a Mum blog site yesterday, just to see how many views we’d had and whether or not people were being redirected and I saw that someone had search and found us with the question: “Is my job required to be flexible with my work hours”.  I thought that they must have been disappointed as none of our posts would have answered that question and yet, it is a pretty important one and no doubt one that you, our Mums might like some answers to.  Hence, today I am blogging about, returning to work: your rights.

I’m afraid that this is UK biased, if you are reading this from another country your rights may well be different.  In fact if you are reading this from another country, we’d be really interested to hear what your maternity and return to work rights are like.  Are we lucky or unlucky in the UK?

So firstly, there is ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave. Ordinary maternity leave is the first 26 weeks of your statutory maternity leave and additional maternity leave is the second 26 weeks.

After ordinary maternity leave you have the right to return to the same job and the same terms and conditions.  After additional maternity leave you have the same right, UNLESS it is not “reasonably practical” (www.direct.gov.uk  states that this is “e.g. your job no longer exists”).  If it is not “reasonably practical”  then your employer must offer you a different job, but with the same terms and conditions as the job for which you left. i.e. they can’t say “sorry your job’s gone” then whistle and walk away!   There are various laws that govern the ability of your employer to make you redundant whilst you’re away.  They can, but only if they make the whole of your department redundant, for example.

By default your employer assumes that you will take 52 weeks of leave.  If this is the case, then you do not have to give notice of returning to work after this period.  In practice, however it can be good to contact your employer before you return to work.  If they and you are in agreement, you can work up to ten ‘keeping in touch days’. These days can be paid and do not affect your Statutory Maternity Pay.  Much as this could be a struggle, a few days back in the working environment may be just what you need to give you some grown-up space.  It might also be helpful to test childcare options etc. It may also be the last thing that you want to consider.  As I said, you and your employer have to agree to them

If you wish to return earlier than 52 weeks you must give at least 8 weeks’ notice.  If you don’t give 8 weeks’ notice, your employer can refuse to let you return until 8 weeks have passed.

If you decide not to return to work, you have to give notice in the same way you would if you were working.  Your employer may also request that you return some of your maternity pay.  They cannot request back your statutory maternity pay, but they may request back any additional pay that is part of your employers own maternity package.

There is now also something called additional paternity leave.  This means that Dads can take leave for a maximum of 26 weeks.  It can be taken between 20 weeks and 1 year after your child is born and you have returned to work.  Dads may also be eligible for Additional Statutory Paternity Pay.  Best to check out the details of all of that on www.direct.gov.uk as there are a number of guidelines and regulations attached.

Now, on to flexible working – the thing that inspired this post in the first place – the question “is my job required to be flexible with my work hours” has a simple answer. No. Not required.  They are required to seriously consider your request.  They are required to reply to you in writing, but they are not required to give it to you.  That said, it may be of benefit to them as well as to you to grant you flexible working, so it may well be worth requesting it.  Direct.gov have a useful section on this http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/Flexibleworking/DG_184569 with various templates and links to show you how to make it attractive to your employer.

Whilst we’re on the subject of flexible returns to work, you should inform your employer if you are intending to maintain breastfeeding when you return to work.  They are then obliged to carry out risk assessments on the job that you do to ensure that your job does not have an adverse affect you as a breastfeeding mother, or your baby.  Your employer must also provide rest facilities for you.  Although they are not legally required to, they are also ‘encouraged’ to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for you to express milk and appropriate storage facilities.

Finally you are also eligible for four weeks parental leave to look after your child after your Statutory Maternity leave has finished without affecting your right to return.  If you take more than 4 weeks you will be able to return to your original job, unless it is not (that phrase again!) “reasonably practical”.  Again, if it is not reasonably practical then you have to be offered another job with the same terms and conditions.  Parental leave can be taken after you have returned to work and you can take up to 13 weeks per child until they are 5 years old.  Parental leave is unpaid, although some employers may pay you and if you’re on a low income you may be eligible for benefits.

So there we have it… I hope that this has told you a few things about returning to work, post child, if that is your choice.

All of the information here has been taken from advice given at www.direct.gov.uk there are more details about all of the subjects covered here on their website, including what to do if you don’t think you are getting a fair deal from your employer.

8 comments

  • Holly

    What exactly does ‘flexible working’ encompass? I have requested part time hours from my employer as either reduced hours or job share. My request has however been turned down and I now face the prospect of returning to work on a full time basis. This will be a struggle especially as we wanted another child.

    • morethanamummy

      Hi Holly, Direct.gov states the following about ‘flexible working’:

      ‘Flexible working’ is a phrase that describes any working pattern adapted to suit your needs. Common types of flexible working are:

      flexi time: choosing when to work (there’s usually a core period during which you have to work)
      annualised hours: your hours are worked out over a year (often set shifts with you deciding when to work the other hours)
      compressed hours: working your agreed hours over fewer days
      staggered hours: different starting, break and finishing times for employees in the same workplace
      job sharing: sharing a job designed for one person with someone else
      homeworking: working from home
      part time: working less than the normal hours, perhaps by working fewer days per week

      Remember, this list is not exhaustive and there may be other forms of flexible working that are better suited to you and your employer.

      They also provide a useful tool to help you put together a case for flexible working http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Diol1/EmploymentInteractiveTools/DG_10028030

      If you do not feel that your employer has seriously considered your request this page tells you about factors on which employers may refuse your case and includes an appeal letter template. http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/Flexibleworking/DG_171775

      Also, if you need further advice, contact:
      http://www.acas.org.uk (Advisoryy, Conciliation and Arbitration)
      http://www.adviceguide.org.uk (Citizen’s Advice Bureau)
      http://www.lra.org.uk (Labour Relations Agency – Northern Ireland)

      Hope that helps. Good Luck!

      :-)

  • Holly

    Thanks for the info!

  • What great advice – wish I had had access to this when I returned to work after my children a few years ago. Thanks.

    • morethanamummy

      Our thanks go to the person who searched the information for giving us the thought! Hope it does help women returning to work. :-)

  • Here is the U.S. we are amazed at the maternity leave, and paternity leave, offered in Europe. My company which is above average for fringe benefits allows us to take 12 weeks unpaid, but we can use accumulated sick time if we choose to get some pay. I’m not sure what the law says about protecting a job, but I assume that 12 weeks is the limit there too.

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