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Finishing your maternity leave? Returning to work? Our advice can help smooth the process…

As the end of your maternity leave draws closer, you’re realising just how much there is yet to organise, and it isn’t only the childcare. Eden spoke to Holly Pither, of regarding her own return to work.

I’ve recently returned after 11 months of maternity leave and whilst it hasn’t been without issue (for example I’ve had to take time off work due to my baby being unwell), the discussions with my boss about returning to work went relatively smoothly. The key thing I learnt from the process was how important it is to negotiate. Here are my top tips on how best to manage a flexible return to work.

1) Plan in advance

I know you want to enjoy every moment of your maternity leave, but I promise you, getting a plan in place early will allow you to relax into motherhood and enjoy the time with your baby. Going back to work is stressful enough without having decisions hanging over you.

2). Write it down

Whether you end up speaking to your boss in person or not, make sure you write it all down. This decision affects your employment contract, so it is best to have a written record of everything, even conversations over email that may seem irrelevant to the negotiations at the time. That way you have it should you need to refer to it.

3). A valued member of staff

Begin by clearly identifying the key skills and experience that make you valuable to your employer. If you’ve been away from the workplace for some time, identify what new skills you may have acquired during your maternity leave. Pull out your recent appraisal forms and highlight your strengths, as well as what you have brought to the business during your time there. It’s time to showcase why you’re so great and how having you back (on your terms) is significantly better than not having you back at all.

4). Think about the bigger picture

Yes I know you are negotiating ‘your’ flexible working hours, but do take time to consider the potential impact of if what works for you will also work for your colleagues and boss. A mutual arrangement will be easier to negotiate and if you can show your boss you’re doing what’s right for the business too, it will be a much easier conversation.

5). Be open and honest

There’s no point in telling them what they want to hear, to only regret it later. Be honest and explain to your boss what you think you need for a good work/life balance. Likewise, if you feel your employer is being unfair, do tell them. Diplomatically of course.

6). Don’t expect them to automatically give you what you ask for:

They don’t call it negotiating for nothing! Make it clear that while you have a preferred option, you’re open to negotiation. Find a suitable middle ground and don’t be worried if there is a lot of back and forth, after all this is a big decision.

7). Make sure you are happy with arrangements

Regarding both work and home. Do speak to us here at Eden if you are thinking about a nanny to look after your little one when you return to work. We offer live in, live out, part time, as well as nanny share options for you to choose from.

8). If all else fails, try something new?

If I have learnt anything on maternity leave, it is that it provides you with time to think and re-evaluate. If your current role no longer works for you then perhaps it’s time to move on? You’re under no obligation to stick with your employer, although you will need to take advice when it comes to leaving, and for example, having to repay your maternity pay.

If you need to speak to HR or a legal expert about your rights, or if you are worried about how your company is treating you, then join the #Workitout forum. It’s a free space to chat to professionals and get advice and guidance.

The NCT website has some useful tips on flexible working.

CareeringIntoMotherhood on Facebook helps mums find new flexible roles if you feel the time is right to move on, or if you are returning to work after a career break.

If you’re starting to think about returning to work after a period of leave such as maternity, you may be interested in some top tips to negotiating a flexible return.

December 18, 2018

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