It fills some women with dread and others with sheer excitement. Whichever way you view it, returning to work after maternity leave is a time fraught with challenges. There’s the quandary of returning full or part-time, dealing with changes in your absence, and of course - the small matter of childcare.
Choosing the right time to return to work after maternity leave varies from person to person. In this feature, we’ll look at some of the key influencers and points to consider when making the arduous decision.
The Legal Bit
In the UK, eligible employees can enjoy statutory maternity leave of up to 52 weeks’ off. Some women chose less, others take more. Each company will have its own guidelines in their brand guidebook. This may dictate how long you decide to take off in itself.
Money, Money, Money
Let’s be honest, none of us work for fun. Surviving on statutory maternity pay (SMP) is a hardship at best. Eligible for 39 weeks, this is broken down at a rate of 90% of your average salary before tax (AWE) in the first six weeks, followed by £148.68 or 90% of their AWE thereafter. The Government website is a great resource for information.
From ‘Jumperoo’s’ to expensive car seats, having children drains you of every spare penny! It’s therefore no surprise that money is one of the main influencers for women returning to work after maternity leave.
Wow-wee, kids are expensive. If you’re wondering how much, think a designer dress every week! Yep, that’s right the cost of childcare for those under two is typically £242 a week for full-time care. That’s an eye-watering £12,584 a year.
This undoubtedly has a significant effect on when to return to work, and whether indeed it pays to return full or part-time. With so many working parents today calling on their families for childcare support, it may make or break when you return to work after maternity leave.
You’re not alone. In a comprehensive and global ‘World Happiness’ Report’, high childcare costs were highlighted as a barrier for many working parents in the UK.
No, we haven’t gone cray cray – for many women work offers respite from the daily chores of cleaning, weaning and burping baby! Plus, for those who enjoy their careers, it’s not uncommon to miss the banter, friendship and adult conversation.
Work offers more than just financial support, it provides a social network and creative fulfilment. When you start to crave the 9 to 5, it’s time to think about returning to work after maternity leave.
For your Career
Although you are guaranteed job security during your maternity leave through the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, many women still feel pressured to return to their roles sooner than planned. There may be various reasons for this, including; expiring maternity cover, re-organisation and despite the above, worries about being overlooked for promotion.
As such, many women return to work after maternity leave all too early. In a survey by the Equality and HR Commission, 11 per cent of women reported being dismissed or made compulsory redundant in no small part due to their parent status.
The decision to return to work after maternity leave should be an entirely personal choice, but it’s hard not to let external factors come in to play. Try and maintain regular contact with your manager and stay up-to-date with company news and changes during maternity leave. Forward-plan for childcare and think about how your new life with a child changes your priorities, these will all equip you with making the right decision. Good luck! 💛💪